One in Three Returning Vets Suffer from Brain Injuries, Mental Health Problems
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Last month, hundreds of veterans who had served in the "War on Terror" gathered at the Winter Soldier hearings in Washington. They had come from across the country to give testimony about what they'd experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere).
They were young -- young enough to make this 38 year-old observer feel over the hill. Some fit the stereotype of the rough-and-ready American soldier -- the invincible John Rambos of American lore -- but most were average, some skinny. Many appeared small without the bulky body armor with which we're accustomed to seeing them in news reports.
They are our nation's kids. They might have been young men and women on any American campus -- there was the usual abundance of tattoos and piercings -- but there was a difference.
Many were broken, some grievously injured in battle, some missing limbs. All of the vets with whom I spoke had obvious psychic scars; several exhibited unconscious facial ticks as they spoke. As I talked to one young woman -- she couldn't have been more than 22 or 23 -- I thought to myself, 'oh, that's what those Vietnam vets mean when they talk about a thousand-yard stare.'
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.