Chris Hedges has a must-read report (but for those with strong stomachs only) on the experiences of a female Marine who worked in a “Mortuary Affairs unit” in Iraq. This excerpt below is from near the end of his piece.
Her return to the United States was difficult, filled with retreats into isolation, substance abuse, deep depression and dysfunctional relationships. Slowly she pulled her life back together, finishing college and applying to graduate school so she can counsel trauma victims.
“Every single Marine I know goes to Iraq to help,” she said. “While I was there that is what I thought. That is why I volunteered. I thought I was going to help the Iraqis. I know better now. We did the dirty work. We were used by the government. The military knows that young, single men are dangerous. We breed it in Marines. We push the testosterone. We don’t want them to be educated. They are deprived of a lot and rewarded with very little. It keeps us at ground level. We cannot question anyone. We do what we are told.
“I am still in contact with most of the people I knew,” she said. “They are not coping. One lives in VA [Veterans Affairs], constantly seeing psychologists and psychiatrists. One was kicked out of the Marines for three DUIs. Another was kicked out of the Marines because he took cocaine. Those who have gotten out are living below the poverty level. And what people do to cope is re-enlist. When they re-enlist they do better. They function. I am the only one who went to school of the 18 Marines in Mortuary Affairs. But I am in counseling at the VA. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. What separates me from them is that I have a great support system and I found my salvation in my education.
“War is disgusting and horrific,” she said. “It never leaves the people who were involved in it. The damage is far greater than the lists of casualties or cost in dollars. It permeates lifestyles. It infects cultures and people and worldviews. The war is never over for us. The fighting stops. The troops get called back. But the war goes on for those damaged by war.”