Fresh from deployment in Iraq, two young New York lawyers will never be the same:
Nightmares haunt Jason N. Thelen four times a week. When he’s awake, he struggles with memory and concentration problems.
Allen R. Vaught still deals with pain from where his back snapped in four places. He, too, battles memory problems.
Both men — former Army captains who returned home recently from fighting in Iraq — not only share symptoms, they share the cause: They nearly were killed while together on a mission.
In the long months they served in Iraq before the ambush, they dodged AK-47 fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades that came screaming out of minarets; endured endless days of 130-degree heat and months without showers; and drove Humvees through streets flooded with a foot-and-a-half of raw sewage. They say they waited in vain for Uncle Sam to provide radios so convoy vehicles could communicate; and they received body armor late — and then it was too small. The Army tasked them with teaching citizens of the former dictatorship about democracy, but many Iraqis just wanted them to leave. Their experiences left them deeply disillusioned about the possibility of successful societal transformation in the former dictatorship. “They [the Iraqis] will never be an American-style democracy,” Thelen says.
Vaught adds, “I don’t want another American to die for something that’s probably not going to work.”