Martin Kuz

Weary soldiers battling ghosts in Afghanistan

Two years after the U.S. military handed off control of the nation's security to Afghan forces, the army lacks the bodies, resources and organization to impose lasting order.

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Post-traumatic growth: Past the blast, and stronger for it

As the lingering effects of traumatic brain injury and combat trauma subsided, two soldiers came to regard their near-death experience and recovery in terms that might sound surprising. They believed struggling with mental trauma changed them for the better.

Student project looks to save, chronicle the voices of WWII veterans

Students at the University of Virginia have launched an oral history project to chronicle the stories of WWII veterans. Now the creators are have embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to raise $8,825 to pay for audiovisual equipment and archiving of material, with the eventual goal of submitting stories to the Library of Congress.

At Pathway Home, combat vets seek to tame the feral memories of war

Most show up with their lives in ruin. Nearly three-fourths have attempted suicide and close to two-thirds have been homeless at least once in the previous year. Almost half are divorced. Seeking to save a new generation of veterans from the mental anguish of combat, Fred Gusman welcomes them to the Pathway Home.

Eagle's Healing Nest: A refuge for vets seeking purpose, peace

Some veterans stay for a few weeks, others never leave. There is no time limit, no restriction on when they can come and go, no expectation that a fractured life will mend in 30 days.

Experts: No early resolution on Bergdahl desertion case

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl now faces charges that could bring potential penalties from dishonorable discharge to prison time. But disposition of the case is likely a long way off, experts said, and at this stage unpredictable.

Army charges Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion

The Army announced Wednesday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009, has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, offenses which could send him to prison for life.

Report: International rules needed for armed drone use

The future of global warfare will be dominated by long-range drones operated by any number of rogue states engaged in an apocalyptic battle to control the world. Or perhaps not.


Iwo Jima survivors gather in Washington to mark anniversary of bloody WWII battle

Capt. Larry Snowden led a company of 230 Marines that landed on the beach of a small Japanese island on Feb. 19, 1945. Five weeks later, when Iwo Jima fell to U.S. forces after one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific during World War II, his unit’s losses reflected the steep cost of an historic victory.

Army budget, end strength dips in fiscal 2016 request

Army officials unveiled a proposed budget Monday that underscores the ongoing role of American troops in an array of global crises and offers a modest pay increase for active duty troops.


The difference a home makes

Living with fellow veterans in permanent supportive housing offers a healing camaraderie, an oasis of shared experience and empathy. “For some of them, being here is the first time they’ve felt connected to anyone since they got out of the military.”


Ohio-based nonprofit helps veterans reclaim their lives by covering rent deposits

“The philosophy is simple. Get veterans housed to save their lives.”

Ending veteran homelessness: How cities around the US are doing

Since 2010, when President Barack Obama launched a five-year national campaign to end homelessness among veterans, the number of former servicemembers living on the streets has dropped from over 76,000 to below 50,000. Here’s a look at efforts in a handful of U.S. cities' progress, based on figures provided by federal, state and local agencies.

Study: Telemedicine helps treat PTSD in vets

Traveling long distances to health clinics presents one of the biggest obstacles to military veterans in rural areas seeking and sticking with therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sopko faults leadership for 'abysmal failure' in Afghanistan nation-building

“I have not found anybody who’s lost a job for screwing up — and there have been a lot of screw-ups in Afghanistan,” said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Senate Republicans say defunding A-10 would be a boost for US enemies

Senate Republicans vowed again Thursday to preserve funding for the A-10 fighter jet, describing an Air Force proposal to mothball all or part of its Warthog fleet as an ill-advised gift to U.S. foes around the world.

Program trains police to defuse confrontations with troubled veterans

Stanley Gibson’s name went unspoken during the two-day program this past summer at the headquarters of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. But the fallout from his shooting has influenced reforms to the agency’s deadly force policies and its tactics for handling veterans in crisis.

A standoff between Issac Sims and police leads to his fatal shooting

Patricia and Shawn Sims stared at the body of their dead son. His blue eyes were closed. His unlined face revealed none of the torment of his last days. He looked like a boy dreaming. Kansas City police had shot and killed Issac Sims, 26, in the garage of his parents’ house a day earlier.

Reeling from PTSD, Issac Sims tried unsuccessfully to get help from the VA

Patricia and Shawn Sims believed war had affected their son’s mental health. Issac Sims sustained a traumatic brain injury from an explosion during his second tour in Iraq with the Army in 2010. The blast had fractured his genial nature.

Army Sgt. Issac Sims left the war in Iraq, but it didn’t leave him

Army Sgt. Issac Sims was killed Memorial Day weekend, a year after his discharge from the Army and thousands of miles from Iraq. He endured two tours there only to die at age 26 in his parents’ home on Kansas City’s decaying east side. The fatal shots were fired not by insurgents but by police. The distinction may have eluded his damaged mind.

When confrontations between cops and veterans turn deadly

The fatal shooting of Issac Sims by Kansas City police on May 25 is one in a series of recent confrontations between military veterans and law enforcement to end in bloodshed.


For the parents of the fallen, a war that never ends

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan and concerns persist of the country reverting to civil war, parents of fallen soldiers struggle with a barbed question: For what larger reason did their child die?


Bergdahl's hometown blindsided by hatred in wake of release — and it's not over yet

The past month has disfigured Bergdahl's hometown's inviting image. Hailey residents have seen their city branded as the birthplace of a soldier widely vilified as a deserter, a traitor and various unprintable words, and their support of him denounced as treasonous. They wonder if, in the coming weeks, there will be more ugliness.


Helping troops find peace of mind in a place of war

The senior medic found himself turning nauseous at the scent of blood. The young private slid into depression after his girlfriend in America dumped him. The first sergeant felt suffocated by memories of three close friends killed in Iraq.


Death shapes life for teams that prepare bodies of fallen troops for final flight home

The first body was the most difficult. Pfc. Durell Siverand found a family portrait in the dead soldier’s wallet that showed him posing with his wife and two daughters. A mortar blast had killed him on the day he turned 21.


Banding together to fight — and to heal

Across the country, behavioral health specialists attempt to bring together a squad or platoon within 72 hours after the unit experiences a calamity: a soldier’s death or serious injury, a mission that yields civilian casualties. The sessions represent part of the military’s wider effort to alleviate the mental burden of troops at war.


'For some reason, I’m alive and he’s not'

First Lt. Joshua Fosher was 15 feet in front of him; Capt. Dusty Turner was about as far behind. The distance saved the two Americans from his fate. Yet they were casualties in a less obvious sense. The blast inflicted hidden wounds, physical and psychological, that lingered long after Kiepura returned to Poland in a metal box.


Downrange together, learning to put marriage before duty

Even living under the same roof, the Dwyers found the war dividing them after their unit arrived at FOB Shank in March.


'Resiliency center' grows out of effort to provide respite from war

In the era of asymmetrical warfare, when the demarcation between the front line and the rear echelon has dissolved like a mirage, the 'resiliency center' serves as an oasis, if only for the running time of “Bridesmaids.”

Chaplain with PTSD returns; shows troops there’s a way out of darkness

The soldier lay on a stretcher, his lower legs a mash of pulverized bone and blackened flesh. Doctors and technicians ringed his broken body. Chaplain David Trogdon watched in silence for an opening. Then he came forward and squeezed the soldier’s hand in his own.


To ease war’s personal strain, chaplain shares the burden

The work of chaplains in a combat zone inspires metaphors that liken their role to a release valve or catch basin. They listen more than they preach. Those who cultivate a ministry of presence serve as roving counselors, adept at creating rapport, undaunted by four-letter banter and mindful that pressing religion on troops can halt conversation faster than a mortar siren.

Downrange, no longer suffering the code of silence

The prevalence of PTSD has provoked questions within the Army about the wisdom of senior officers badgering lower-ranking troops to repress their combat trauma while deployed, and the unofficial code of silence, long regarded as a barometer of soldier strength, has drawn scrutiny of late as a doctrine that merely defers war’s psychological toll.

Afghan commander suspected of acting as crime boss

Lt. Col. Daniel Mouton brought an open mind to working with Afghan Col. Mohammad Wasil. Less than two months later, after suspicions arose among U.S. officers that Wasil had ties to the Taliban, Mouton was investigating him. In the ensuing weeks, Mouton uncovered a raft of alleged offenses that suggested a man with a dual identity: the battalion commander as crime boss.

With US drawdown nearing, Afghans have little faith in their own security forces

The men sat on the ground inside a mud-brick barn listening to Capt. Philip Schneider, the air imbued with the scent of manure and a sense of fatalism. More than a decade into the longest war in U.S. history, Afghans remain less convinced of their military’s intentions than the Taliban’s.

Reporter's Notebook

Officials try to find out if boy, 11, is suicide bomber

The suspect thwarted his Afghan and U.S. interrogators with vague replies for a half-hour, his voice soft and melodic, his brown eyes wide and guileless.

Pakistan border reopening solves immediate problem, and one down the road

Whether it was an apology or not, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message to Pakistan opened the way for the first military supply trucks in seven months to rumble over the Afghan border Thursday and assuaged fears of a costly, potentially messy exit. For now.

Reporter's Notebook

At scene of Kabul attack, a view of different worlds

Two worlds, a world apart. In Miami, confetti fell and the hometown crowd roared as LeBron James and his Heat teammates celebrated winning the NBA title Thursday night. Almost 8,000 miles away in Kabul, where it was Friday morning, smoke rose from a burning building and gunshots snapped the air as a hostage crisis played out at a lakeside resort.

Relatives gather at scene of grisly slayings at Kabul hotel

The gunfire had subsided at a popular lakeside resort on this city’s outskirts shortly before noon on Friday, replaced by the sobbing of those whose loved ones were among the 18 people killed in a grisly militant attack.

Reporter's Notebook

Another search, another fruitless day with villagers

A dozen men gathered around the U.S. troops who had come to their village on a bright morning to inquire about the bloody events of a week earlier.

Soldiers recount 60-second attack that left them reflecting on life and death

Staff Sgt. Damian Remijio and Spc. Zachary Fitch lay on the ground as a grenade bounced down a pile of rocks toward them. Metal struck stone with awful clarity.

Reporter's Notebook

In Khost, not naming names, but mediating blood feuds

In this area of eastern Khost province near the border with Pakistan, the Taliban are the militia with no name.

Reporter's Notebook

Despite atrocities, wartime life rolls on in Afghanistan

Muhammad Tahir jutted his bearded chin toward a U.S. military vehicle idling on the dirt road that cuts through this tiny village’s open-air market. The gunner’s hatch rose above the rooftops, and most of the shops looked small enough to fit inside the 15-ton armored truck.

Killing of civilians likely to increase tension between US, Afghan forces

Tension had existed on bases shared by U.S. and Afghan troops after a recent series of shootings in which Afghan personnel killed six American servicemembers after reports last month that U.S. soldiers burned copies of the Quran. The unease is almost certain to deepen after the reported killing Sunday of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, by a U.S. Army staff sergeant.

Ambassador: U.S. will not accelerate removal of troops from Afghanistan

America will not accelerate the removal of its troops from Afghanistan despite a series of attacks on U.S. soldiers by Afghan security personnel angered over the burning of Qurans at a coalition airfield, according to the top U.S. diplomat here.

Reporter's Notebook

For Afghans who didn't protest, a feeling of helplessness

Sayed Hashim and Abdul Raziq belong to the millions of Afghans whose measured, muted response to the burning of Qurans made them invisible. When protests erupted, the coverage followed. The two friends and business partners watched, more dismayed in their countrymen than by the media.

Taliban looks for gain in continuing Afghanistan violence

A suicide car bombing killed nine people and injured a dozen outside a military airfield in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the latest spasm of violence resulting from the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base last week.

Sprawling air base in western Afghanistan reflects hopes, perils of massive buildup

Across nine square miles of arid flatland in Herat province lies evidence of the shattered past and robust present of Shindand Air Base. Less obvious is the uncertain future of the second-largest coalition forces airfield in Afghanistan, home to the nation’s fledgling air force academy.


Quran crisis reveals lack of awareness

Afghans seethed for a sixth day over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, and as the violence persists and the death toll rises, an unanswered question pulses at the heart of the crisis.

Afghanistan suffers deadliest day of protests

Despite an apology from President Barack Obama and a plea for calm from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, violent protests racked Afghanistan again Friday, the fourth day of upheaval over coalition soldiers burning Qurans at a U.S. base.

Obama apologizes for Quran burning as protests continue

President Barack Obama apologized to Afghans on Thursday over coalition troops burning copies of the Quran, vowing to hold the culprits responsible as protests roiled Afghanistan for a third straight day.

Afghan protests spread over Quran burning; at least seven dead

A wave of anti-American rage swept across Afghanistan on Wednesday, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 30 injured during a second day of protests over coalition troops at Bagram Air Base burning copies of the Quran.

Reporter's Notebook

For soldiers on Afghan patrol, too much time is on their side

It’s said that war is 99 percent boredom and 1 percent sheer terror, so it follows that war coverage tends to dwell on the 1 percent.

ISAF commander apologizes for improper disposal of Qurans

NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan apologized and promised an investigation following a report that coalition troops at Bagram Airfield “improperly disposed” of copies of the Quran, an incident that ignited a protest Tuesday outside the base north of Kabul.

Stars and Stripes duped by Army sergeant’s war claims

An Army reservist in Afghanistan with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion who told Stars and Stripes that he deployed during the Vietnam War has come under military investigation for apparently lying about his prior combat service.

‘Reintegration’ — it takes a village

The U.S. military’s efforts to “reintegrate” Taliban fighters relies in part on a kind of tribal peer pressure.

Reporter's Notebook

Afghan police chief: 'We want revenge'

After a preteen suicide bomber killed six people last month in this village darkened by Pakistan’s shadow, Abdul Latif assumed a new job in circumstances he called “worse than awful.”

Weary of bloodshed, a Taliban leader in Afghanistan weighs reintegration

The Taliban leader hid his face beneath a black ski mask as he rode in the back seat of an Afghan army pickup truck. He knew to avoid needless risk. If the wrong person saw him, his life might end before he could convert from insurgent to peacemaker.

Friction between Afghan forces hangs over remote post

There is no need to imagine the aftermath of perhaps the worst attack on the Afghanistan Border Patrol in its young history. The Taliban captured the grim scene on video. The siege inflamed the simmering distrust between the border patrol and the Afghanistan National Army in a turbulent region.

Murder plots, theft -- we’ll get there

The U.S. and Afghan soldiers who occupy a roadside outpost near this village in northern Kunar province work in buildings a half-block apart. They meet daily to discuss reports of insurgent activity and almost as often to drink tea or eat rice and naan.

For troops, cards and care packages bring a touch of home to Christmas

Even in the dust and grime of war in Afghanistan, the yuletide spirit takes hold. Most holidays here come and go without fanfare; missed birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal milestones are more difficult. But for many soldiers, being away from their families at Christmastime is a little tougher still.

Army units preparing to lead new Afghan training-and-advisory mission

Soldiers began preparing last week to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the new training-and-advisory mission designed to end the U.S. combat role ahead of the 2014 withdrawal deadline.

Military looks at supply routes away from Pakistan

If Pakistan opts to keep the border crossings into Afghanistan closed to NATO resupply convoys for an extended period following an air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the U.S. military and its allies may have to rely more heavily on the Northern Distribution Network, a key gateway for military equipment.

Thanksgiving 2011: Troops in Afghanistan chow down

Forget the Macy’s parade in New York City. On Thursday morning, soldiers at Combat Outpost Garcia in Nangarhar province may have held Afghanistan’s first-ever Thanksgiving Day parade.

This holiday, troops in Afghanistan thankful for surviving IED blast

Pfc. Derick Vinton was looking forward to lunch as he drove an armored vehicle back to his platoon’s base last month near this village five miles from Pakistan.

Reporter's Notebook

Magnet for IEDs sees his patrol days end

To say that Pfc. Joshua Carrington had a bad day on July 21 is like saying the war in Afghanistan hasn’t gone as planned. True, yes, but there’s a bit more to the story.

In the Afghan city of Herat, the young are restless as war grinds on

Among those in their 20s and 30s, a yearning exists for Herat to live up to its moniker as “the Dubai of Afghanistan.” As yet, amid a national economy burdened by war, the label remains more aspirational than accurate.

Influential Afghan women's rights advocate says hope is lost

Rangina Hamidi's frustration with the status quo and Afghan President Hamid Karzai transcends words. The 34-year-old Hamidi, who left Virginia in 2003 to promote women’s rights in her homeland, has decided to return to the United States, disillusioned by what she views as Afghanistan’s descent into entropy.

Reporter's Notebook

Fast and Furious cabs no match for Kabul’s Mad Max roads

If Hollywood had plans to film “The Fast and the Furious: Kabul Surge,” the midnight-blue Toyota Corolla looked primped to audition for a role: lustrous steel rims, wafer-thin racing stripes, shark-fin spoiler and mud-black windows, the better to thwart sunshine and stares.

Thousands gather to mourn, bury Rabbani

Thousands of mourners gathered at a hilltop cemetery Friday for the burial of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, their grief over his murder earlier this week shot through with anger at those behind his assassination and doubts that peace will prevail in the war-scarred country.

Rabbani death may hint at divisions within Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — Burhanuddin Rabbani rose to prominence as a man of war during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that ended more than two decades ago.

Criticism, concerns arise in wake of Kabul attack

By the time an almost 20-hour insurgent assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters here ended Wednesday morning with 27 dead, criticism of and concerns about Afghanistan’s security forces were already percolating in the nation’s capital.

Insurgents attack U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Gunfire could still be heard echoing through Afghanistan’s capital more than two hours after insurgents launched a complex attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Tuesday.

Reporter's Notebook

In the war zone, time is an enemy

There are war zones and there are time zones. In between, there is the war time zone, an earth-bound purgatory where hours disappear in a haze of waiting and tedium that feels like something out of an Albert Camus novel.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan sad, angry over deaths in downing of chopper

Saturday’s attack also deepened concerns about traveling by helicopter in Afghanistan.

Word of downed helo slow to reach some U.S. bases in Afghanistan

Word of the deaths of 30 U.S. servicemen killed when their helicopter was shot down Saturday west of Kabul was slow to reach some U.S. bases in Afghanistan. At Forward Operating Base Torkham, where troops are primarily involved in patrolling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border along the Khyber Pass, a half-dozen soldiers approached by a Stars and Stripes reporter Sunday afternoon had yet to hear of the attack.

Six months after pullback, U.S. goes back in to contest Pech Valley

The Chinook had descended within 200 feet of the ground when a rocket-propelled grenade rose from the night-cloaked mountains and stabbed its belly fast and deep.

Unintended star of ‘Restrepo’ returns to Afghanistan

In one scene of Sebastian Junger’s best-selling book “War,” then-Pvt. Misha Pemble-Belkin runs through sheets of gunfire to aid Spc. Carl Vandenberge, who is bleeding out after a bullet has severed the brachial artery in his left arm. Now Pemble-Belkin, 25 is back in Afghanistan as a sergeant and team leader with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division.

Reporter's Notebook

Tale of donkey-borne IED gives dark laughs downrange

In the command center, the men were laughing. A donkey-borne IED. Who would do that? Who would load a donkey with explosives and send it tottering down the road, an unwilling, unwitting suicide bomber?

Certification sets stage for openly gay troops to serve

The President and military leaders on Friday certified that the military is ready for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, setting the stage for openly gay troops to begin serving in the military in late September.

Reporter's Notebook

The gym at the top of the world

Observation Point Mustang might boast the best open-air gym this side of Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif.—with a few differences. Subtract the Pacific Ocean, sidewalk gawkers and live music. Add the Kunar River, Islamic militants and mortar fire. Then look down.

Tribal skirmish threatens broader coalition campaign in Afghanistan

The kidnappers made a demand of their captive that was at once straightforward and impossible to fulfill: return control of the district of Ghaziabad in northeastern Kunar province to neighboring Nuristan province.

McCain blasts drawdown plans during visit to Afghanistan

Sen. John McCain used an Independence Day visit here to criticize President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan starting this summer, calling it “an unnecessary risk” to American forces that will continue the war effort.

Reporter's Notebook

Gators and Hooters in the mountains of Afghanistan

The Gator trouble began even before its six knobby tires hit the ground on a mid-June morning in a mountain valley village 15 miles west of the Pakistan border.

Benefits of 'economy of force' missions in Afghanistan remain unclear

First Lt. Roderic O’Connor sat in the shade of a fruit tree with a village elder who wore a silver pinky ring, a gold watch and a smile as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa’s.

Reporter's Notebook: Nabbing the non-Mensa insurgent, cell phone surprises and a bit of bitterness

The shoot-and-run tactics of insurgents make them difficult to catch. But not all of them are graduates of the Osama bin Laden School of Evading Capture.

Despite new efforts, battlefield blasts still damage hearing of thousands of troops

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ben Coleman bluffed his way through his post-deployment hearing exams. Though he was unsure he could hear a tone in his headphones, he depressed the handheld clicker anyway.

Progress in one Afghan district is hard-won, still fragile, troops say

A platoon of U.S. soldiers walked along a dirt path mottled with sheep droppings, moving past fruit orchards and muddy streams under a warm morning sun. Gunfire, mortar explosions and the other noises of war were nowhere to be heard.

Reporter’s Notebook: Learning patience in eastern Afghanistan

A television in the corner showed Jack Bauer doing his sweaty best to save the world on “24.” A dozen people, including U.S. military officers and civilian employees, occupied overstuffed chairs and love seats along the walls.

Soldiers honor ‘funny bone’ of platoon

Spc. Richard Emmons III was known as “the funny bone of the platoon,” a young man quick with a quip who kept his fellow soldiers loose and laughing.

Reporter's Notebook

Staying cool under fire in Afghanistan

I sat on the ground in a copse of trees near this village in southern Logar province, listening to Sgt. Sean Casey lay out his plans for postmilitary life. The Army combat photographer was covering a joint patrol mission conducted by soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division and the Afghanistan National Army.

In remote Afghan region, troops fill dual role of fighter and ambassador

The day’s work began near dawn for the 75 U.S. and Afghan soldiers conducting a patrol in this mountain village about 70 miles south of Kabul. Plumes of dust rose from the ground as they trudged through terraced fields of wheat and corn toward a cluster of mud-walled dwellings. Residents stepped from their homes to watch.

DOD identifies four U.S. soldiers killed in Kunar province

Four soldiers killed this week by an improvised explosive device in Kunar province in northeastern Afghanistan were U.S. servicemembers, the Pentagon announced late Wednesday.

Reporter's Notebook

Rocket strike on Afghanistan base: Coincidence?

Only hours after the world learned that U.S. operatives killed Osama bin Laden, something happened at this outpost in eastern Afghanistan for the first time in almost a year: a rocket strike.

Bin Laden killing a ‘wonderful thing,’ but there’s still work to be done

It was euphoria and relief mixed with a sense of caution about what lies ahead as soldiers here absorbed the news that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday, ending a nearly decade-long manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Threat of government shutdown sends shoppers rushing to commissaries

Looming uncertainty over a possible government shutdown ignited a run on base commissaries Friday as servicemembers and their families stocked up on food and household goods as a precaution against the stores closing.