The Great Uncounted, by David Jaffe

An article in today’s online edition of The Independent entitled “The life and death of an Iraq veteran who could take no more� relates the tragic tale of Douglas Barber, a U.S. army reservist who served in Iraq in 2003-2004 and was significantly traumatized by the experience. Earlier this month, at the age of 35, Mr. Barber took his own life. Just prior to his death, he posted an article on the Internet in which he reflected on the devastating impact that the war had wrought on he and his fellow soldiers. He had this to say:

My thought today is to help you the reader understand what happens to a soldier when they come home and the sacrifice we continue to make. This war on terror has become a personal war for so many, yet the Bush administration do not want to reveal to America that this is a personal war. They want to run it like a business, and thus they refuse to show the personal sacrifices the soldiers and their families have made for this country.

All is not OK or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand. We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out.

Others come home to nothing, families have abandoned them: husbands and wives have left these soldiers, and so have parents. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become the norm amongst these soldiers because they don’t know how to cope with returning to a society that will never understand what they have endured.

Like Douglas Barber, Jeffrey Lucey was similarly traumatized by his tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. He returned home changed by the experience and tortured by memories of what he had seen and done. Last June, he hanged himself in his parents’ home in Massachusetts. He left behind a note in which he said: “I am weak and cannot deal with the pain. It feels as if I lost the most important part of my life that will ever exist.” Jeffrey Lucey was 23 at the time of his death.

As of this writing, more than 2,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the Iraqi conflict since the war first began nearly three full years ago. More than 16,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in action. (Up-to-date statistics can be found at: http://icasualties.org/oif/.) Not included in any of the official statistics are those, like Douglas Barber and Jeffrey Lucey, who have been psychologically wounded by their wartime experience and, unable to endure the trauma and to receive adequate mental health treatment, have committed suicide. They and others like them, whose numbers will tragically only keep growing, remain the great uncounted casualties of an unnecessary war.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Uncounted, by David Jaffe

  1. It is incredibly sad to think of soldiers who return from war and commit suicide. Also I believe it is important to bear in mind the huge number of civilian casualties and military casualties for the Iraqi people. As Mr. Barber said: “We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out.” Senseless killing reaps further senseless killing. It’s a vicious cycle.

  2. I concur, Kiersten. The great uncounted casualties include many, both military and civilian, whom I did not acknowledge in my previous comments. The fact of the matter is that the suffering wrought by this terrible war is incalculable, but all who suffer or die deserve their due.

    For more on the issue of suicide among Iraqi War veterans, I encourage you to read this lengthy but comprehensive article from the Dayton Daily News: http://www.daytondailynews.com/project/content/project/suicide/daily/1010suicide.html

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