Casualties Of War Cause Casualties At Home
The Colorado Gazette has a devastating story on Iraq war veterans who committed heinous acts in Iraq and came back to do the same at home. Anthony Marquez’s (r) mom, for example, told his sergeant at Fort Carson that her son was “a walking time bomb.”
It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraq eight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.
The sergeant taunted Marquez, telling him, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”
Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.
Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.
Ten members of Marquez’s unit have been arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have tried suicide, and some have succeeded.
…in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.
Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.
Marquez attributes his behavior specifically to his Iraq experience.
“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”
More killing by more soldiers followed.
In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.
In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.
In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.
In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.
It’s clear that under-reported were civilian casualties and outright murder of Iraqis who just got in the way.
Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.
“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”
And that’s because discipline lagged, tours were too long, and any sense of objectivity was lost.
“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”
Soldiers said discipline started to break down.
“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” [infantryman Daniel] Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”
Eastridge (r) is now doing 10 years in jail as an accessory to murder after a bar fight with a fellow soldier, and after already having done time for a charge of domestic violence (He put a gun to his girlfriend’s head). Marquez is doing 30 years for murder during a botched drug deal.
After two tours in Iraq, Eastridge was depressed, paranoid, violent, abusing drugs and haunted by nightmares. But because he was other-than-honorably discharged, he said, he was ineligible for benefits or health care. He was no longer Uncle Sam’s problem. He was on his own.
Ah, health care! Sound familiar?
“I had no job training,” he said. “All I know how to do is kill people.”Click here for reuse options!
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