Izzy "Socket" Klatzker

The New Wartime Body

What happens when one's body becomes the war zone, the setting for patriotic pride, and the argument for technological advances that alter scientific and economic landscapes? It often means returning with a different sense of self and relationship to one's body for U.S. soldiers back from Iraq. Re-entry varies from the conceptual to the physical, and amputee veterans are returning from the Iraq war faced with transitioning back to civilian life without straightforward support to navigate the military health care system or job opportunities.

The Homecoming

Jody Casey, formerly a 19 Delta Cavalry Scout sniper now organizing with Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW), set the tone of our conversation, "I wasn't ready for re-entry. I wasn't briefed about anything regarding re-entry. So, on top of dealing with the anger and isolation of being back, I also had to be my own advocate." Casey advocated for work, securing mental and physical health care in a society that does not understand the realities of war. Counseling programs "were pushing all these pills my way without even hearing what I was going through, then they set me up with a counselor who has never known combat."

He faced similar frustrations when looking for employment. "The job on the top of the list was to be a teller at Wal-Mart. No offense to anyone who works there, it's just that I felt unseen, insulted, and under-valued... They trained us only to re-enlist or work for Black Water Security or KBR." [Kellogg, Brown and Root is a former subsidiary of Halliburton] Both are mercenary war-profiteer subcontractor companies currently patrolling, fighting, and "providing security" at a much higher pay rate than U.S. soldiers receive in Iraq. Casey stressed the enormous need for worker retraining programs and a modified GI bill that includes part-time and vocational students. "I only got trained to kill and be a solider."

Casey matter-of-factly shared some ideas about how a worker re-training program could look. He suggested vocational training, something akin to "helmets to hardhats," utilizing an apprenticeship model, but provided by the Army. "Such a program could help you retrain from war on many levels because right now they are unleashing unstable people back into society."

The Body

Sources from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., estimate that since the onset of the Iraq invasion and occupation upwards of 400 U.S. soldiers have come back needing amputations and prosthetics (30 percent have multiple amputations). According to icasualties.org, since April 2003, between 18,000 and 20,000 U.S. soldiers' injuries include second- and third-degree burns, bone breaks, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries, paralysis, and eye damage. In addition, 9,744 U.S soldiers wounded in action returned to duty between 2003 and 2004, while 8,239 soldiers did not return to war.

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