The “Dirty Bastards” quick reaction force, made up of both American and Italian soldiers, poses at Forward Operating Base Lavaredo in Afghanistan in 2012. Photo courtesy of Nate Tilton.

How Being “In on the [Racist] Joke” Silences Service Members

Service members often feel compelled to laugh along at racist jokes and comments.
Airmen of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard stand for a group photo Nov. 12, 2019, at the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing. Guam, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories have some of the highest rates of U.S. military enlistment. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

US Territories Have High Rates of US Military Service, but Battle for Veterans’ Benefits

Guam, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories have some of the highest rates of U.S. military enlistment, but their veterans also face major hurdles accessing benefits after their service.
Brian Thompson laughs near local children while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2007. Photo courtesy of the author.

Movies Don’t Prepare You for What Happens When the Action Dies Down

This is the part that movies didn’t prepare me for. Sometimes, that memory comes up unexpectedly, like when I see a group of kids running.

Learning How to Talk About War Helped Their Family Heal

You can't hide anything from your children, John Sims learned. When their family began talking openly about his three decades of service, the healing began.
The VA's National Cemetery Administration buried Alvin J. Pugh -- pictured here in 1981 after enlisting in the Air Force -- at New York's Calverton National Cemetery in February 2023, a year after his death. But nobody contacted his family in Colorado who had been frantically looking for him for two years. (Photo courtesy of Calverton National Cemetery)

VA Buried Their Brother as an ‘Unclaimed Veteran.’ Now They’re Working to Bring Him Home.

What happened to Alvin Pugh reflects decades-long issues with how the VA tracks veterans who die alone, allowing remains of 21,000 vets to go unclaimed.
Kacy Tellesen and Kyle Huth on a sweep-and-clear mission in Haqlaniyah, Iraq. Photo courtesy of the author.

Now When I Think About Valentine’s Day, I Think About Grenades

Unlike the movies, the scene doesn’t cut away after a tragedy. You can’t flash forward to a better time.