What Happens When Soldiers Become Civilians Again? | Reader's Digest

What Happens When Soldiers Become Civilians Again?

Three men fought together on the front lines in Iraq, but faced new perils and different fates when they came back. Meet America's servicemen as they return from war.

By Brian Mockenhaupt from Reader's Digest Magazine | June 2012

What Happens When Soldiers Become Civilians Again?Courtesy Scott Quilty
The Leader

Returning from a client meeting to his office at Fathom Creative, Scott Quilty walks with a slight hitch, and his right leg squeaks with every step. When he sits down at his desk, his pant leg hikes up, revealing a titanium post where his ankle should be. As he chats with his colleague, he lays a business plan across his right arm, which ends in a flesh-colored prosthetic hand.

Now in his second year at Fathom, a design firm in Washington, D.C., the former infantry platoon leader, who was wounded when he stepped on an IED in Iraq in October 2006, has replaced his counterinsurgency manuals with books like Communicating Design. “Jumping out of airplanes and raiding houses doesn’t come in handy when you’re doing business development at a design firm,” he says. “They don’t need people who can kick down doors.” By current statistics, many employers don’t seem to need the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at all.

Today’s veterans are returning to a home front far different from past wars. In World War II, one in ten Americans served in uniform, and most of those who didn’t were directly affected by the war. Today, fewer than one percent of Americans, about 2.4 million men and women, have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. For many in America—indeed, for most—life has gone on much the same since the wars started ten years ago. And veterans take notice—eight in ten say the public doesn’t understand the problems faced by service members and their families, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Those problems are many and daunting, from psychological trauma and high divorce rates—especially among those who have served multiple combat tours—to homelessness, nagging feelings of alienation, and persistent unemployment.

  • Your Comments

    • Margaretpurrcell45

      My dad was 45 wen I was born n he stayed strong. but the flashbacks. and the haunted look he would get on his facce and tthe nights he would have scremiing nightmares. have and will haunt me all my life, I’m 48

    • Dee “Phoenix” Hudson

      This was a very touching story. I had hoped that the last soldier would make it but unfortunately he took his own life. Quilty and the rest should know that Duefield didn’t kill himself to be noticed. He just couldn’t deal with the inner pain any longer. I say that because I have been there myself. I hope more people will read these type of articles and understand that many of our homecoming soldiers really do need the rest of us!

    • Dee “Phoenix” Hudson

      This was a very touching story. I had hoped that the last soldier would make it but unfortunately he took his own life. Quilty and the rest should know that Duefield didn’t kill himself to be noticed. He just couldn’t deal with the inner pain any longer. I say that because I have been there myself. I hope more people will read these type of articles and understand that many of our homecoming soldiers really do need the rest of us!

    • jsphnprk

      TYPO IN THE HEADING: “soliders” < "soldiers"

    • Gauranga

      I firmly believe that one message, from many, that one can get from this story is that, as a relative or friend of these brave men and women, you have to believe that you can be a source of support, motivation and company for them to readjust themselves to the life which they chose to interrupt in order to fight for their country.   

    • Mohammed_Almarhun

      War is just wrong, imam Ali said ” people are just two types, either a human like you or brothers who have the same believes like you”
      Why do we have to kill each others when we have to help each other for a better life.
      I might not said what I wanted to say the right way but at least I tried.

      Mohammed Ali from Saudia Arabia

      • S’pani

        Well, how many think war is wrong. There are too many state sponsored terrorism, a war like situation, why? just to prove a point and impose some thing. If all think and behave your way there no need to have boundaries, between continents, countries and even states

    • Hillington Musoke

      this article is really touching, transition is always a hard part of life not only for vets but even for other sects, we all need people like Quilty and we should all be like him in the best we can, the power of networking