Iraq Veteran Dies Two Decades After Deployment Ended

Iraq Veteran Dies Two Decades After Deployment Ended

Various complications, including kidney failure and pneumonia, claimed the life of a seriously wounded 42-year-old Iraq veteran. 

His spine was broken in two places in 2004 when the armored vehicle he was riding in plunged into the Tigris River during a combat mission to capture enemy soldiers. The incident left him with quadriplegia.“I learned a lot from Joey, but the thing I learned most was how great the human spirit was,” said his friend, Terry Masterson.

The veteran spent his last conscious days asking for his longtime caretaker and dreaming about returning to the accessible home built for him by the Wheaton community. At the time, his caretaker was dealing with an immigration issue and was not in the country.

Iraq Today

Way back in the day, President Woodrow Wilson argued that if the United States joined the Allies in World War I and overthrew German Kaiser Wilhelm, democracy would take root in Germany. Instead, after a period of instability, a new strongman, Adolf Hitler, took the reins of power.

President George W. Bush believed basically the same thing in the run-up to the Iraq War. He thought if Coalition forces deposed Saddam Hussein, democracy would take root in Iraq. So far, his prediction has been off, as well, albeit not as badly as Wilson’s. There is instability in Iraq. What comes next remains to be seen.

Between 2015 and 2017, Iraqi government forces vanquished ISIS from the country in a series of bold offensives. ISIS was formed from the remnants of al Qaeda, a terrorist group that the Americans and their allies were unable to vanquish. The future looked so bright in Baghdad that Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi. Had to wear shades. Unfortunately, the security that the Iraqis fought so hard to obtain proved to be short-lived. 

In 2018, widespread protests in Iraq against government corruption, inadequate public services, and high unemployment turned violent. A brutal crackdown ensued that may have killed hundreds of people.

Around Christmas 2019, a string of escalating attacks almost turned Iraq into another active war zone. In late December, a rocket attack on an airbase killed an American contractor. Officials blamed Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-affiliated militia group, for the assault. A few days later, the Americans bombed Hezbollah positions in Syria and Iraq. A few days after that, Iraqi Shia militiamen, who were supposedly affiliated with Iran, stormed the Green Zone in Baghdad. The militants surrounded the American embassy, set fires, and left anti-American graffiti.

Things really got bad a few days after that. A U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Qasem Soleimani.

Meanwhile, domestic protests intensified. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, and his entire cabinet, suddenly resigned. Three would-be Prime Ministers could not cobble together a coalition government. Clearly, no one really wanted the job. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi barely survived a November 2021 assassination attempt, making the leadership position even less attractive.

Political deadlock continues. In November’s election, the Sadrists won 73 seats in Parliament, making them the largest voting bloc. They all resigned the following year. As politicians struggle to build a viable government, protesters become more anxious.

So, as the mid and late 2020s approach, things in Iraq are not as bad as they were in Germany a century ago. But they are not much better, either.

Long-Term Contractor Injures in Iraq

As Iraq faces an uncertain future, the Iraq War looks more and more like the bloody and indecisive World War I, which gave birth to Hitler and other extremists in Germany. As the body count rose in that war, the media focused on trauma injuries, mostly gunshot wounds. These injuries are severe, but in many ways, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one obvious example. Almost everyone goes through post-traumatic stress after something like a car crash or a COVID infection. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, and unjustified anger towards family members. Sometimes, these symptoms subside after a few weeks of time and therapy. The traumatic experience of battle usually causes a more severe form of PTSD that is manageable but not curable.

The management usually involves intensive therapy and strong medication. Not everyone is a candidate for such aggressive interventions. So, they must suffer in silence. 

Advanced PTSD is especially bad if, as is often the case, the victim used drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. That approach usually works well in the short term, which is why so many people use it. In the long term, however, self-medication is incredibly destructive.

The loss of a limb, or even a digit, is another example. Our bodies have lots of parts. If every single part is not at 100% efficiency, we suffer. Prosthetic limbs and other medical devices often enable these victims to get by for a while. But this solution usually is not ideal or permanent.

Hearing loss is yet another example. Many air force and other bases are not noisy enough to trigger mandatory Occupational Safety and Health interventions, like earplugs. However, these installations are noisy enough to permanently damage hearing.

If doctors catch the problem early and there are no complications, a hearing aid usually fixes the problem. But hearing aids do nothing for advanced cases or victims with serious complications. At this point, the only option is risky and expensive eardrum surgery.

Like PTSD and limb loss, hearing loss has collateral effects. Raging Bull Jake LaMotta was deaf in one ear. His partial deafness may explain his violent behavior. He could not hear well, he got frustrated, and he lashed out. Most hearing loss victims do not lash out, at least not as badly as LaMotta. However, these victims often withdraw from social events and become deeply depressed.

Injury Compensation Available

The Defense Base Act applies not only to sudden trauma injuries. It also applies to the aforementioned occupational diseases, as well as similar maladies.

The reporting requirement is often an issue in these claims. Usually, DBA benefits are unavailable unless the victim reports the injury within 10 days. Claims Examiners use such technicalities to deny claims whenever possible. They would do almost anything to avoid addressing the merits of a DBA claim.

An attorney makes a big difference. A variation of the discovery rule usually applies in these cases. Victims do not need to report their injuries until they know the full extent of their damages. So, hearing loss victims need not come forward when they need to turn on the TV subtitles.

For more information about the DBA process, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.