Editor’s Note: After Service

The last few years have seen a remarkable change in the American conversation about veterans. As our soldiers come home, we’re paying more attention to the lifelong wounds of war. But suffering in service takes many forms.  This issue of Dart Society Reports is about giving voice to some of that suffering.

I’m incredibly proud of this issue of our magazine.  Barely a year old, in this issue 14 writers and photographers join us in grappling with some of the toughest questions in our field.  Without coordination, they have here ended up in dialogue with each other.  Phil Zabriskie and Alia Malek approach, from different angles, the legacy of war for civilians.  Dave Philipps and Lee Hancock offer practical advice on getting better interviews.  John Moore and Sarah Stillman explore wounded warriors and healing, and Frank Ochberg and Lori Grinker remind us that “the invisible injury” is often present for the wounded and their families.

In “The Rape Wasn’t the Only Problem,” survivors of military sexual assault talk about the betrayals that came after the violence — from the military structure to which survivors had pledged their lives and loyalty, and from some journalists who misreported their stories or, worse, abused their trust.  In Lee Hancock‘s beautiful feature, military assault survivors share their experiences, good and bad, of going public, and journalists pull the curtain back on the challenges of doing this difficult work well.

In “The Intrepid,” Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Moore shares images from the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), where wounded veterans begin the long process of physical and psychological healing.  In “Sex and the Wounded Soldier,” New Yorker contributor Sarah Stillman shares portraits of soldiers struggling with intimacy and injury after war.  Phil Zabriskie argues powerfully that civilians should be considered veterans of the wars waged around them, and DSR managing editor Sarah Kess reminds us, with a feature about Blue Water Vets and Agent Orange, that not all veterans are always equal, at least regarding after-war eligibility claims.  Journalist Huascar Robles introduces us to a pioneering court for veterans in criminal trouble, and Lee Hancock reveals to us what military investigators can teach journalists about better talking with trauma survivors.

War is, of course, personal, and not just for those who serve. In this issue’s Shoe Leather Diaries, Pulitzer Prize winner Dale Maharidge writes about chasing the demons of his father, a WWII veteran.   Alia Malek explores the possible legacy of civilian suffering in the civil war in Syria, the land of her heritage.  Journalist Dave Philipps reveals how getting personal can help get the story.  Former Stars and Stripes correspondent Neil Shea talks about watching a military unit veer ever closer to the kind of behavior associated with war crimes, forcing Shea to make tough choices about what to write.