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The Memory War

We might be on our way out of Iraq but things are just starting to pick up in Afghanistan. With record-high number of veteran suicides and rising rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression in every branch of the armed forces, is the nation headed for a mental-healthcare crisis? On..

We might be on our way out of Iraq but things are just starting to pick up in Afghanistan. With record-high number of veteran suicides and rising rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression in every branch of the armed forces, is the nation headed for a mental-healthcare crisis?On the eve of her discharge from the U.S. Navy, Annette Yover stood beneath a black sky watching fireworks explode in blooms of green and purple, yellow and red. It was July 4th, 2005, and the Navy was holding its annual Independence Day celebration at Carney Park, an American military recreation center in Naples, Italy. Yover had been stationed there for the last 18 months. A mortician at the nearby U.S. Naval Hospital, she was looking forward to a night of celebration with her friend. They spread out a blanket among crowds of other soldiers, and sat down to enjoy the show.But Yover soon noticed something was wrong. As columns of fireworks spiraled into the air, each explosion more amplified than the last, her heart rate quickened and the blood drained from her face. The repetitive booms reminded her of the mortar fire she heard while forward-deployed in Kuwait, collecting human remains from the battlefront in Iraq. The smell of sulfur triggered memories of long hours spent in the Naval mortuary, mending wounds on the bodies of dead soldiers. Her chest muscles tightened, and tears welled up in her eyes. At first her crying was subdued, escaping from her mouth in short bursts. But it quickly gave way to heaving sobs, the type that take hold of the body and forcefully wring it out."I noticed other people looking at me," Yover says now. "But I was the only one reacting. It was overwhelming, that sense of panic, that feeling of, ‘I need to get out of here.'"
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