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Rebuilding Iraq... and soldiers' lives
Adele Kubein's daughter probably never should have been deployed to Iraq in the first place. Following a civilian accident several years ago, her leg was held together by an 8-inch metal plate and 9 steel screws-- an injury that could have allowed her to opt out of service. But instead she "felt she had a duty to her nation," according to her mother, and went into battle anyway.
The following is the story of Adele's daughter as told to me yesterday evening at Camp Casey. Adele cannot use her daughter's name as she is still active duty military. She speaks of her daughter's deployment to Iraq, injury in a helicopter crash, and the long process of physical and psychological recovery. For it is not just the families of killed soldiers who suffer; according to the website Iraq Coalition Casualty report, the wounded now number 13,877 and counting, meaning 13,877 American families must care for their loved ones returning from Iraq with missing limbs, burned skin, and other tragic physical disabilities.
"My daughter deployed with the Oregon National Guard in February of 2003, already suffering from a shattered leg held together by an 8-inch metal plate and 9 steel screws. She was a 50 caliber gunner and convoy mechanic. By April of 2003, her unit was convoyed up to Mosul after the bombing there. On the way, they traveled on roads covered in depleted uranium dust. They were told not to breathe the "red dust."
I generally knew about her whereabouts. She and I would try to talk 3 or more times a week, but one time I didn't hear from her for more than a month. I was worried to death.
She was injured about 10 months into her deployment when her helicopter was shot down over Mosul. There weren't any fatalities in her helicopter, but there were in the one shot down right in front of her's. In the crash, her leg was shattered, it was absolutely pulverized. The impact broke the metal already in her leg. But she wasn't medevaced for two months after her injury; she was told that it wasn't serious, and that they needed her as a 50 caliber gunner.
She had already been medevaced a few months before that to Germany when she was suffering liver failure. 14 soldiers in her unit had liver failure, and 4 died. They had been excavating under Saddam's palace and think they were contaminated by something there.
When my daughter was finally medevaced, she was sent to Ft. Collins, CO, but they couldn't operate right away due to her earlier liver failure. Finally she had her operation. But she couldn't come home to us because National Guard troops only get 90 days of medical care after their period of active duty ends, so she was kept on "active duty" at Ft. Collins for treatment.
She was stuck in Colorado for a year and her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is severe! She would have nightmares all the time. One of her jobs in Iraq was to clean the body parts of her friends out of the humvees. She can't ever shake that.
We finally got her home because we worked with our congressman, a wonderful man named Peter DeFazio, to lobby Congress to have our wounded Oregon National Guard soldiers sent home to us. Thanks to his help they are all home, including my daughter, receiving care from civilian doctors and psychiatrists paid for by the U.S. government (there are no military bases in Oregon, so soldiers from Oregon can't be treated in their home state). I had to do press conferences all over the world to ensure that our troops be treated equally.
So my daughter is home now. They can't fix her leg-- she has special braces, but she will never be able to walk normally again. She won't get any better than this. And you know what? The Army wanted to re-deploy her!
She used to be an incredible athlete. She loved to go hiking and play all sorts of sports. I told her I'll drive her to the top of Mt. Hood now so she can look out.
She's still learning to deal with her anger. The first few months were really tough for her, but now she can manage going to the grocery store and running little errands. Before she was deployed, she was in the 5th year of a Marine biology program at Oregon State. She's really bright.
And it's really hard for us to deal with, too. When your daughter calls you from Iraq with mortars firing in the background, telling you that she just had to kill someone before they killed her, your heart just breaks. A mother's heart can only handle so much. We mothers cry all the time... my daughter was so misused, and I'm determined to speak out now!"