On Veteran’s Day, America pauses to honor the selflessness and sacrifice of those who have served. As a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down, the mental impact of that service has become clearer. For the first time, the military suicide rate is higher than that for civilians, forcing the Pentagon to reshape how it cares for those affected by the stress and trauma of fighting a war without boundaries.
For Mr. Snook, doctors say the bomb blast that injured his foot will prevent him from ever running again. But the mental toll of having to leave the only job he ever wanted is, in many ways, just as acute. In that way, he represents the thousands of veterans for whom today – like many other days – is simply another chance to discover new meaning in a life dramatically changed by the bonds of war and brotherhood.
“For years, I woke up everyday because I knew there were 30 guys waiting for me at work, and we were trying to get ready to fight a uniform-less, hiding enemy,” Snook says. “I felt such deep purpose in my life, and now I don’t feel any purpose at all.”
It was Sept. 26, 2010, that the course of his life changed. As a part of President Obama’s troop surge to southern Afghanistan, Snook’s platoon was tasked with clearing an area where Taliban were operating.