1. FAW Lineup:
    Dr. Kevin Fong, author of Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century
    Kayla Williams and Brian McGough on living and loving with PTSD
    Ken Tucker reviews Lake Street Dive

  2. fresh air weekend

    terry gross

    lake street dive

    PTSD

    iraq war

    kevin fong

    extreme medicine

  1. Today on Fresh Air we discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the story of Iraq War veterans and couple, Kayla Williams and Brian McGough.  In October of 2003 an IED explosion went off, sending shrapnel through Brian’s head and causing permanent brain damage. The couple got closer, fell in love, and eventually married. Kayla Williams’ memoir Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War shares the story of the unimaginable obstacles the couple faced, including rage, depression, and paranoia.
In the interview Williams explains how symptoms of PTSD are “adaptive in a combat zone”:


"A lot of what we think of as symptoms of PTSD are adaptive in a combat zone. So being hyper-vigilant, extremely alert to your surroundings, always monitoring your environment for potential threats and being prepared to respond with immediate violence if necessary if you perceive a threat — those are adaptive ways to be in a combat zone. Those traits keep you alive in a combat zone and it’s normal for anyone coming home to take a while to wind that down.
… I still feel my heart rate increase if I see trash on the side of the road because there’s a little piece of my brain that thinks it could be an IED. But for the vast majority of people those fairly normal symptoms fade within three to six months after coming home. But for people like Brian with pretty severe PTSD, that fading of those symptoms doesn’t happen and those normal ways to behave or think or be in a combat zone carry over into civilian settings where they’re actively counterproductive.”


photo of the Iraq War memorial at the Old North Church in Boston

    Today on Fresh Air we discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the story of Iraq War veterans and couple, Kayla Williams and Brian McGough.  In October of 2003 an IED explosion went off, sending shrapnel through Brian’s head and causing permanent brain damage. The couple got closer, fell in love, and eventually married. Kayla Williams’ memoir Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War shares the story of the unimaginable obstacles the couple faced, including rage, depression, and paranoia.

    In the interview Williams explains how symptoms of PTSD are “adaptive in a combat zone”:

    "A lot of what we think of as symptoms of PTSD are adaptive in a combat zone. So being hyper-vigilant, extremely alert to your surroundings, always monitoring your environment for potential threats and being prepared to respond with immediate violence if necessary if you perceive a threat — those are adaptive ways to be in a combat zone. Those traits keep you alive in a combat zone and it’s normal for anyone coming home to take a while to wind that down.

    … I still feel my heart rate increase if I see trash on the side of the road because there’s a little piece of my brain that thinks it could be an IED. But for the vast majority of people those fairly normal symptoms fade within three to six months after coming home. But for people like Brian with pretty severe PTSD, that fading of those symptoms doesn’t happen and those normal ways to behave or think or be in a combat zone carry over into civilian settings where they’re actively counterproductive.”

    photo of the Iraq War memorial at the Old North Church in Boston

  2. fresh air

    interview

    iraq war

    veterans

    ptsd

    relationships

    kayla williams

    brian mcgough

  1. Today Roy Scranton and Jake Siegel, two veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan join us to talk about their wartime experiences and the process of writing about them. Scranton explains how he coped with the constant fear of death:

I found that I had to shut down my imagination because it really turned into an enemy. The kind of daydreaming and extrapolation of ideas that I love to indulge in as a reader and as a writer was suddenly and completely maladaptive to the situation in Baghdad. The more I could imagine what could happen, the more different ways I thought I could die or fail or mess things up and it just would turn paralyzing. That’s where I started to tell myself that it doesn’t matter: "None of it matters; you’re already dead. Just get through your job."




photo via flickr commons View in High-Res

    Today Roy Scranton and Jake Siegel, two veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan join us to talk about their wartime experiences and the process of writing about them. Scranton explains how he coped with the constant fear of death:

    I found that I had to shut down my imagination because it really turned into an enemy. The kind of daydreaming and extrapolation of ideas that I love to indulge in as a reader and as a writer was suddenly and completely maladaptive to the situation in Baghdad. The more I could imagine what could happen, the more different ways I thought I could die or fail or mess things up and it just would turn paralyzing. That’s where I started to tell myself that it doesn’t matter: "None of it matters; you’re already dead. Just get through your job."

    photo via flickr commons

  2. fresh air

    interview

    veterans day

    roy scranton

    jake siegal

    afghanistan war

    iraq war

    death

    fear

  1. Journalist Aaron Glantz tells Terry Gross about the backlog of benefits-related paperwork at offices for the Department of Veterans Affairs:

If you go into any VA office you’ll see stacks and stacks of paper, giant manila envelopes going up to the ceiling sometimes into the hallways. The VA inspector general reported that at the office in Winston-Salem, N.C. there was literally so much paperwork in the office that it was inhibiting the structural integrity of the building. The frustrating thing is President Obama and the VA repeatedly say that they’re solving this problem and they’ve spent … half a billion dollars so far to launch this computer system, but then when you look at the reality on the ground you see that it has only been deployed to fewer than half of the offices … and that in those offices a very small number of claims are actually in the computer system. It’s full of bugs. There have been a lot of problems and the agency has not really been able to get it off the ground in a way that it can make a meaningful difference for veterans.

image via juvencioroldan

    Journalist Aaron Glantz tells Terry Gross about the backlog of benefits-related paperwork at offices for the Department of Veterans Affairs:

    If you go into any VA office you’ll see stacks and stacks of paper, giant manila envelopes going up to the ceiling sometimes into the hallways. The VA inspector general reported that at the office in Winston-Salem, N.C. there was literally so much paperwork in the office that it was inhibiting the structural integrity of the building. The frustrating thing is President Obama and the VA repeatedly say that they’re solving this problem and they’ve spent … half a billion dollars so far to launch this computer system, but then when you look at the reality on the ground you see that it has only been deployed to fewer than half of the offices … and that in those offices a very small number of claims are actually in the computer system. It’s full of bugs. There have been a lot of problems and the agency has not really been able to get it off the ground in a way that it can make a meaningful difference for veterans.

    image via juvencioroldan

  2. Fresh Air

    Interviews

    Aaron Glantz

    Center for Investigative Reporting

    Veterans Administration

    Iraq War

  1. When Lu was outside with Asaad [Salim] smoking a cigarette and I was inside with the two Kachadoorian women, Nora, who’s now about 30 — she’d been sitting quietly, for the most part, the whole time — didn’t really say anything, just a couple of words here and there. And finally when Lu was outside, she spoke and she said, ‘We want to help them.’ And it was very nice.

    One of the oddities of the story, and there are so many, and I’m not sure what it means, but they’re Christian, for one thing, which makes them a minority in Iraq, some 2 percent of the population … And they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and they’re very religious — certainly as anyone would be after something like this.

    So every time I asked them about forgiving Lu, or what had happened, or how did they feel about it, or why are they not bitter, because they’re not, they would just default immediately to the Bible, or they would start talking about religion, of God and forgiveness. And it was amazing. You could just see the power of religion at a really micro level. They believed deeply in their religion, and she said — and they said, over and over again, ‘We have to forgive them. This is what God commands us: He’s forgiven us; we must [as well]. And there was no doubt in their mind about it. And the conviction with which they did it was very moving.

    — Filkins on the Kachadoorians forgiving former Marine Lu Lobello

  2. Dexter Filkins

    Fresh Air

    Iraq War

    Lu Lobello

  1. By sending a video, I felt that I could encapsulate more of the emotions I was feeling. I tried to write out something to send to them. I probably made 25 drafts and deleted them all. It just seemed so odd to put on paper. I just didn’t know what to say really, and every time I would read what I just wrote, I thought that it sounded like something I would hate to read if I was them. So eventually I tried to video myself in hopes that it would better show them what I was feeling …

    I introduced myself. I told them of the night that we met, and I told them I was sorry and that I had to speak to them if I could. I told them that they lived so close to me that I had to reach out. It was just too odd to me not to say hello and not to find out how they were doing, to see if I could help them really. I wanted to know if there was something I could do to make their life easier.

    — Former Marine Lu Lobello on the video apology he sent to the Kachadoorians

  2. Fresh Air

    Lu Lobello

    Iraq War

    New Yorker

  1. In 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War during a firefight at a major Baghdad intersection, Marines fired on three cars that didn’t heed their warnings to stop or turn around. Three members of the Kachadoorian family were killed. Former Marine Lu Lobello doesn’t know if his bullets were responsible for their deaths, but years later, still haunted by the experience, he found a New York Times article by Dexter Filkins, that helped him track down and meet with two survivors. Here’s Filkins, on finding the story:

It was a week after Saddam [Hussein] fell, his government fell, and Baghdad was just total chaos. There was looting everywhere. There were people being killed in the streets. There were buildings on fire — it was just total anarchy.
So I was just driving around trying to figure things out, and I saw this crazy scene in front of a hospital, and this was happening at all the hospitals: There was a giant crowd of people trying to get inside so they could just tear everything apart and basically carry away anything of value … And I watched a doctor come out, you know, a guy in a white lab coat with an automatic rifle, and shoot it over the heads of the crowd to kind of scare them back. And what a scene. So I just pulled over, and I went inside the hospital to see what I could see, not knowing what I would find.
And it was a scene inside the hospital, which was very much like the outside — total pandemonium. Most of the hospital had been looted. There was no electricity. The water was gone. There were people walking around carrying, holding their bleeding limbs. It was extraordinary. And a doctor walked up to me, an Iraqi doctor. I had been there for a while looking around, and he just pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s something I want to show you.’ And I said, ‘OK.’
And I followed him into this ward in the back of the hospital, and there was this woman who turned out to be Nora Kachadoorian, a young woman probably 21 years old at the time. Her mother and her aunt were standing over her in a hospital bed, and her shoulder had been really, really badly wounded.
So I just kind of sat down and talked to them about what had happened, and she — Nora, and her mom, Margaret — they kind of reconstructed this event, what had happened and how it came that she had been shot in the shoulder, and Nora’s two brothers and her father had been killed just a couple days before. And so it was quite a story.
So this was one really sad, traumatic event in this gigantic scene that was happening, this gigantic historical event, so I focused on that for a while, and I somehow managed to find the Marines camped out in the field a couple miles away. And I can’t remember how I managed to get lucky like that, but I found them, and they were all very upset, and they told me what happened from their perspective.
And so I was able to piece together what had happened at this terrible moment at this intersection … And that was April 2003, and I wrote that story, and it stayed with me because the Kachadoorians — they were very sweet people, and what had happened to them was terribly sad. And years went by. I spent almost four years in Baghdad, and I used to ask about them, and I used to look around for them every now and then. I saw a lot of death, but I never found them again and never heard from them again until a couple of months ago, and got a Facebook message from Lu.
View in High-Res

    In 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War during a firefight at a major Baghdad intersection, Marines fired on three cars that didn’t heed their warnings to stop or turn around. Three members of the Kachadoorian family were killed. Former Marine Lu Lobello doesn’t know if his bullets were responsible for their deaths, but years later, still haunted by the experience, he found a New York Times article by Dexter Filkins, that helped him track down and meet with two survivors. Here’s Filkins, on finding the story:

    It was a week after Saddam [Hussein] fell, his government fell, and Baghdad was just total chaos. There was looting everywhere. There were people being killed in the streets. There were buildings on fire — it was just total anarchy.

    So I was just driving around trying to figure things out, and I saw this crazy scene in front of a hospital, and this was happening at all the hospitals: There was a giant crowd of people trying to get inside so they could just tear everything apart and basically carry away anything of value … And I watched a doctor come out, you know, a guy in a white lab coat with an automatic rifle, and shoot it over the heads of the crowd to kind of scare them back. And what a scene. So I just pulled over, and I went inside the hospital to see what I could see, not knowing what I would find.

    And it was a scene inside the hospital, which was very much like the outside — total pandemonium. Most of the hospital had been looted. There was no electricity. The water was gone. There were people walking around carrying, holding their bleeding limbs. It was extraordinary. And a doctor walked up to me, an Iraqi doctor. I had been there for a while looking around, and he just pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s something I want to show you.’ And I said, ‘OK.’

    And I followed him into this ward in the back of the hospital, and there was this woman who turned out to be Nora Kachadoorian, a young woman probably 21 years old at the time. Her mother and her aunt were standing over her in a hospital bed, and her shoulder had been really, really badly wounded.

    So I just kind of sat down and talked to them about what had happened, and she — Nora, and her mom, Margaret — they kind of reconstructed this event, what had happened and how it came that she had been shot in the shoulder, and Nora’s two brothers and her father had been killed just a couple days before. And so it was quite a story.

    So this was one really sad, traumatic event in this gigantic scene that was happening, this gigantic historical event, so I focused on that for a while, and I somehow managed to find the Marines camped out in the field a couple miles away. And I can’t remember how I managed to get lucky like that, but I found them, and they were all very upset, and they told me what happened from their perspective.

    And so I was able to piece together what had happened at this terrible moment at this intersection … And that was April 2003, and I wrote that story, and it stayed with me because the Kachadoorians — they were very sweet people, and what had happened to them was terribly sad. And years went by. I spent almost four years in Baghdad, and I used to ask about them, and I used to look around for them every now and then. I saw a lot of death, but I never found them again and never heard from them again until a couple of months ago, and got a Facebook message from Lu.

  2. Iraq War

    Dexter Filkins

    Fresh Air

  1. "I felt a  pressure both from my peers and from within, that in order  to be a real Marine, I  needed to go to Iraq," Jess Goodell says about why she decided to take a job in the Mortuary  Affairs unit. In that job, Goodell had to gather the remains of fallen soldiers, inventory what was in their pockets and identify the bodies. She talks about this and more with Terry Gross on today’s Fresh Air.

    "I felt a pressure both from my peers and from within, that in order to be a real Marine, I needed to go to Iraq," Jess Goodell says about why she decided to take a job in the Mortuary Affairs unit. In that job, Goodell had to gather the remains of fallen soldiers, inventory what was in their pockets and identify the bodies. She talks about this and more with Terry Gross on today’s Fresh Air.

  2. author

    iraq war

    fresh air

    npr

  1. Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school as a  mechanic, but when the Mortuary  Affairs unit was recruiting officers to  go to Iraq in 2004, she volunteered  immediately.
Her  platoon was tasked with recovering and processing the remains of fallen  soldiers.
Goodell talks with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross today about her new memoir "Shade it Black:  Death and After in Iraq.”   In the book Goodell shares her experiences in the  Mortuary Affairs   Unit and why her job never got easier with time or  proficiency.

    Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school as a mechanic, but when the Mortuary Affairs unit was recruiting officers to go to Iraq in 2004, she volunteered immediately.

    Her platoon was tasked with recovering and processing the remains of fallen soldiers.

    Goodell talks with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross today about her new memoir "Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq.” In the book Goodell shares her experiences in the Mortuary Affairs Unit and why her job never got easier with time or proficiency.

  2. fresh air

    author

    iraq war

    npr

    public radio

  1. When Jess Goodell worked in the Marine Corps’ first Mortuary Affairs Unit in Iraq, she had to gather the remains of fallen soldiers, inventory what was in their pockets, and identify the bodies.

    Her new memoir "Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq," describes how her immersion in death affected her life when she returned home.

    Tuesday on Fresh Air: Jess Goodell

  2. author

    iraq war

    memoir

    npr