War Torn: Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles

  1. Part 1 of a NYT Series

    I am only pasting part of the article, because it's long. Click the link below to read in it's entirely.




    Late one night in the summer of 2005, Matthew Sepi, a 20-year-old Iraq combat veteran, headed out to a 7-Eleven in the seedy Las Vegas neighborhood where he had settled after leaving the Army.

    This particular 7-Eleven sits in the shadow of the Stratosphere casino-hotel in a section of town called the Naked City. By day, the area, littered with malt liquor cans, looks depressed but not menacing. By night, it becomes, in the words of a local homicide detective, “like Falluja.”

    Mr. Sepi did not like to venture outside too late. But, plagued by nightmares about an Iraqi civilian killed by his unit, he often needed alcohol to fall asleep. And so it was that night, when, seized by a gut feeling of lurking danger, he slid a trench coat over his slight frame — and tucked an assault rifle inside it.

    “Matthew knew he shouldn’t be taking his AK-47 to the 7-Eleven,” Detective Laura Andersen said, “but he was scared to death in that neighborhood, he was military trained and, in his mind, he needed the weapon to protect himself.”

    Head bowed, Mr. Sepi scurried down an alley, ignoring shouts about trespassing on gang turf. A battle-weary grenadier who was still legally under-age, he paid a stranger to buy him two tall cans of beer, his self-prescribed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
    As Mr. Sepi started home, two gang members, both large and both armed, stepped out of the darkness. Mr. Sepi said in an interview that he spied the butt of a gun, heard a boom, saw a flash and “just snapped.”

    In the end, one gang member lay dead, bleeding onto the pavement. The other was wounded. And Mr. Sepi fled, “breaking contact” with the enemy, as he later described it. With his rifle raised, he crept home, loaded 180 rounds of ammunition into his car and drove until police lights flashed behind him.

    “Who did I take fire from?” he asked urgently. Wearing his Army camouflage pants, the diminutive young man said he had been ambushed and then instinctively “engaged the targets.” He shook. He also cried.

    “I felt very bad for him,” Detective Andersen said.

    Nonetheless, Mr. Sepi was booked, and a local newspaper soon reported: “Iraq veteran arrested in killing.”

    Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

    Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

    The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

    Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

    About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain.

    A quarter of the victims were fellow service members, including Specialist Richard Davis of the Army, who was stabbed repeatedly and then set ablaze, his body hidden in the woods by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.

    And the rest were acquaintances or strangers, among them Noah P. Gamez, 21, who was breaking into a car at a Tucson motel when an Iraq combat veteran, also 21, caught him, shot him dead and then killed himself outside San Diego with one of several guns found in his car.
  2. I cannot comment without getting political, but I can say I hope a certain someone is proud of his acheivements in the aftermath of his decision.
  3. ^^ Same here, I would probably be banned!!

  4. Word. Shame on him. :cursing:
  5. Do you know the death count of Canadians in Afghanistan? 78.

    Do you know the death count of Americans in Iraq? 3,000.

    And the numbers are climbing. Just think about that.
  6. I agree with all responses posted thus far, and cannot comment further without offending some.
  7. 2 years later, DH still look down roads and thinks of all the ways he could be killed or ambushed and adjusts his driving accordingly; when he walks down the street amidst tall buildings he surveys all the windows to ensure there is nobody sniping; when he hears a loud noise akin to a mortar or RPG he reacts how he was taught to. 2 years later, and even he did not come home suffering as much as others. Yet we still see the effects.

    last year, a friend he deployed with was killed saving two men from a hmmwv that was hit by an IED...he was on his second tour. DH pulled up a picture of Dutch sitting on his couch in Germany...when times were different. He told me to come into the room, he showed me that picture...then the news story. He asked if I could figure out the connection. He said that man that died was his friend...who was sitting on that couch of his years before. He has been lucky. That was the only person he really really knew that got killed, someone that he sweated blood and salt with...he was lucky. Others see whole platoons knocked out. It is sad...that we consider this lucky - to only know one or two who are gone. This is what we are reduced to!

    DH has been singled out and stared down...with the hatred of someone who wants to kill...him. He has seen the ugliness of someone's soul, someone that wanted to kill him just for being...him.

    These things I know, and yet there is still so much that I don't, and never will. I will get to write my own story, just as everyone else does. People don't, won't, and can't understand - is it any wonder that a soldier's life is a lonely one?
  8. I can't help but believe that these kinds of things happen after every war. (I am not defending the Iraq war) I think no one has compiled records till recently. Heck, the civil war produced trainloads of junkies addicted to morphine. I'll bet there were many men who ended up committing violent acts as well. Every war produces psychological casualties whether they become addicts or violent offenders. I don't believe for a second that these incidents are exclusive only to veterans of this current war.
  9. I agree. I never get so many emphatic 'thank yous' from Vietnam vets, because they are trying to pay it forward instead of acting out how they got treated when they came home....

    just remember...

    me talking about these incidences and spouting off knowledge or things I have seen is the RARITY. Civilians don't hear about things happening because vets do not talk about it. DH NEVER talks about anything, except for things that he tells me. and even I do not know every little thing that he saw. And Vietnam vets are even more tightlipped than we are. I will write a thread for when I am over there because I will need a distraction...and I'd rather write my blog on tpf where my friends can see it...but it will not include anything nasty or bad or anything horrific...and I will never talk about it. But I will tell you about others' stories. There is a huge difference.
  10. ^Candace, you say "over there", may I ask where you are going?
  11. The big I, little raq. Not for another year though.
  12. My uncle was in WWII and was trapped in a cave for several days somewhere in the Pacific (he was a Medic). Anyway, when Saving Private Ryan came out, he finally talked about his experiences to my Dad (also a Vet). I think the bloody beach scene brought it out. Dad was shocked at what he had gone thru and after all the years finally told about the medals.

    He was truly very brave!
  13. Please be as careful as possible!

  14. That is amazing, and your uncle is truly brave!!! Thank you to him and your father for being willing to sacrifice. And anybody that says medics aren't hardcore...need to pay attention! ;) (my unit is a medical unit too!)
  15. I will be surrounded by medics if anything happens, at least! :tup:
    Thank you for your well wishes, I will remember them!