Troops Still Battling PTSD, Other Invisible Wounds 11 Years After Start of Iraq War

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today.

That war is over, but many troops who fought there are now waging personal battles at home. While thousands suffered physical wounds, the nightmare of war is refought in the minds of hundreds of thousands of troops daily as they suffer with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“One of my friends said, as she put it, that her husband, he didn’t die, but he didn’t come home,” said Nicole James, wife of former Marine Sgt. Jesse James, who deployed to Iraq twice and deals with PTSD and other aftereffects of several blasts. “He’s a completely different guy. It’s a grieving process in accepting that it’s not him. … You have to go through that and accept that it’s not going to be him, so you can move on toward accepting who he is now and working forward and making progress on it.”

The USO has several programs and services for troops who served in Iraq who are wrestling with the daily impact of PTSD while trying to transition to civilian life.

  • The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.: The USO built the first-of-its-kind Warrior and Family Center on the Fort Belvoir medical campus so troops receiving recurring treatment there could have a place to start their transition with programs like USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops, art therapy offerings like Combat Paper, and more. Troops there can also use the facility to relax, watch TV or grab a snack.

  • Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars: This valuable program brings couples together in a classroom setting to help improve their relationships. Check out this clip for a great story from Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador:

  • USO Caregivers Conferences: Caregivers of wounded warriors need help, too. The USO has held multiple Caregivers Conferences to address concerns like compassion fatigue and helping kids deal with drastic life changes.

  • Adaptive sports: Many recovering service members find solace and regain their confidence on the playing field. The USO supports endeavors like the Marine Corps Trials and Warrior Games. Take a look:

Volunteers Keep Spirits High (and Somewhat Dry) During USO Kandahar Flash Flood Cleanup

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When you deploy to the desert, flooding isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Still, a group of USO volunteers and staff bailed out USO Kandahar from a messy situation over the weekend when flash flooding filled some of the center’s rooms with ankle-high water.

“We had a great group of volunteers that were quick to help us get all the furniture and boxes upstairs and to the theatre, which was higher ground and less likely to be affected by the water,” USO Kandahar’s Deborah Ayers wrote in an email. “Within an hour and a half, the water was about 3 inches deep in two of the back rooms, and had pushed forward about halfway through the tent. At that point, the tent had been cleared out except for the volunteers, who went out front to assess the damage.

“[USO Kandahar] has experienced floods almost every year, so this was somewhat expected, and thanks to the amazing cooperation and coordination of the volunteers and staff we got away with minimal damage and we’re up and running again!”