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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


From the front page of today's NY Times, a story on some of the hidden, long term costs of this vile and unnecessary war. There are wounds not visible from the surface which will continue to inflict pain on soldiers, their families, and communities for years to come:

Cpl. Anthony Klecker in Iraq

Most nights when Anthony Klecker, a former marine, finally slept, he found himself back on the battlefields of Iraq. He would awake in a panic, and struggle futilely to return to sleep.

Days were scarcely better. Car alarms shattered his nerves. Flashbacks came unexpectedly, at the whiff of certain cleaning chemicals. Bar fights seemed unavoidable; he nearly attacked a man for not washing his hands in the bathroom.

Desperate for sleep and relief, Mr. Klecker, 30, drank heavily. One morning, his parents found him in the driveway slumped over the wheel of his car, the door wide open, wipers scraping back and forth. Another time, they found him curled in a fetal position in his closet.

Yet only after his drunken driving caused the death of a 16-year-old cheerleader did Mr. Klecker acknowledge the depth of his problem: His eight months at war had profoundly damaged his psyche.

“I was trying to be the tough marine I was trained to be — not to talk about problems, not to cry,” said Mr. Klecker, who has since been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “I imprisoned myself in my own mind.”[...]

...Anthony Klecker experienced the brutality of war early, enduring ambushes and firefights as one of the first marines to fight from Kuwait to Baghdad and on to Tikrit. What torments him most, though, is the uncertainty.

As the gunner on the rear Humvee in a First Marine Division convoy, Corporal Klecker was charged with making sure that nothing — no cars, no Iraqis — came too close. In the distance, he saw a man in farmer’s robes running toward his convoy and fired a warning. Suddenly, a white civilian van came hurtling up the road. Mr. Klecker fired another warning, then let loose several bursts of machine-gun fire at the van and the man. The van stopped.

Mr. Klecker said he did not know if he had killed them — though he assumed he did — or if they were innocent Iraqis. Still, he says: “I was proud. I had a lot of adrenaline. I did my job.”

Later, though, the incident no longer seemed so clear-cut. “I started to feel a sense of shame,” he said, “shame about if I did the right thing or didn’t.”

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