2011 - With veterans now accounting for one of every five suicides in the nation, the VA is under pressure from the courts and Congress to fix its mental health services in an attempt to curb the death toll. In April, 25 soldiers committed suicide, equal to about half the deaths in Afghanistan during the month.
She appears again, 2-year-old riding her hip,
grief so great he can see through her birkha, past Qualaday,
into the kitchen, his mother nurturing chicken
in popping grease. It gags him, the leg she brings-
her husband's - but that's better than the head, an empty-eyed
mask, so much of the skull left behind.
As they talk, he nods, amazed by their understanding, notices
dirt on her hem, she's been digging again, hands black,
blood rimming the nails. So much they share; even in Idaho
the earth is red. She wants to trade the leg,
asks, What will America give? The children must eat.
He shows the pictures again - what his soldiers have done -
the killing fun - says a leg is only a leg, no real proof
but thinks, at least its something,
when you think what fragmentation can do.
They walk toward the trestle, headphones block the mowing,
his father gone chore crazy, the cutting and collecting,
teeth pried from the mostly-dead, fingers squirreled away
in stiff flannel, grenades lined up like beer cans, or was it
the other way around? Every man has a beast
in the heart - feed it Kandahar Province again, a day purpled
by poppies, this widow's man, civilian kill,
detonated by a mud wall, propped up with props to justify the sport -
an AK, some rubble of blame.
$11,300, he says, is what you get
for a murdered haji. The train is close.
The children squat beside the rail, pressing coins
onto quivering metal. The price of a life, he thinks,
will take a long time, coin, to coin, to coin on the line.
But in the end, one step takes less than a second.