Quil Lawrence

David Aquila ("Quil") Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

Previously, Lawrence served as NPR's Bureau Chief in Kabul. He joined NPR in 2009 as Baghdad Bureau Chief – capping off ten years of reporting in Iraq and all the bordering countries. That experience made the foundation for his first book Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, published in 2008.

Before coming to NPR, Lawrence was based in Jerusalem, as Middle East correspondent for The World, a BBC/PRI co-production. For the BBC he covered the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 and returned to Afghanistan periodically to report on development, the drug trade and insurgency.

Lawrence began his career as a freelancer for NPR and various newspapers while based in Bogota, Colombia, covering Latin America. Other reporting trips took him to Sudan, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

A native of Maine, Lawrence studied history at Brandeis University, with concentrations in the Middle East and Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Arabic.

Pages

6:49am

Mon December 9, 2013
NPR Story

Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Burdens Like A Scarlet Letter

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 11:21 am

Reed Holway spent 13 months in Iraq. He says PTSD brought on a drinking problem when he returned to the States — and that eventually led to a bad-conduct discharge. Vets with "bad paper" have trouble getting any VA health benefits — even for PTSD.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."

Read more

3:21am

Mon November 11, 2013
Around the Nation

Vets-Turned-Firefighters Find Brotherhood, Purpose

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 10:04 am

Probationary firefighter and veteran Victor Ramos practices driving the fire truck at the 16th Street Firehouse of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue in Union City, N.J.
Melanie Burford for NPR

Veteran Chris Delplato wanted to be a firefighter for a long time.

"Ever since I was a little kid — [toy] truck and everything," Delplato says. But he only just got his dream job, after first joining the Navy and serving in the Persian Gulf.

He was hired by New Jersey's North Hudson Fire Department, which has brought on 43 veterans this year.

Read more

3:38am

Wed September 25, 2013
Afghanistan

U.S. Soldier Fights For Afghan Interpreter Who Saved His Life

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 10:40 am

Janis Shinwari is seen wearing his body armor in 2008. Shinwari, an Afghan interpreter who assisted U.S. forces, has been waiting three years for a visa to enter the United States. He is now in hiding in Afghanistan.
Matt Zeller

Army Capt. Matt Zeller had been told that his Afghan comrades would make a big show of hospitality. He'd read that the Afghan code of honor would mean protecting his life with their own. Sure enough, that's what his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, pledged to him when they met in April of 2008.

"I expected him to say it. I didn't think he'd make good on his promise within two weeks of my arrival," Zeller says. "Literally pick up a weapon and ... save my life," says Zeller.

Read more

4:53am

Sat September 14, 2013
Around the Nation

For Wounded Vets, Climbing Half Dome Only Half The Mission

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 2:50 pm

At base camp, Timmy O'Neill, gives instructions to volunteers and veterans participating in the week's hiking and climbing activities.
David P Gilkey NPR

Timmy O'Neill is guiding Steve Baskis through ancient yellow pines that almost touch the sky. They're hiking all day to base camp in California's Yosemite National Park, 2,000 feet up in Little Yosemite Valley.

Taking Baskis by the hand, O'Neill traces the distant ridge of Half Dome, a bald rock rising almost a mile from the valley floor. That's tomorrow's challenge.

Read more

5:38pm

Wed August 21, 2013
Around the Nation

VA Still Under Pressure To Reduce Disability Claim Backlog

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 6:38 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

For years, the backlog of disability claims for veterans has been fodder for politicians, pundits and even comedians, like Jon Stewart.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART: And paper disability records still undigitized and piled up so high that the floor of one VA field office is going to collapse.

Read more

5:02am

Sat July 20, 2013
Deceptive Cadence

A Veteran's Piercing True Story Leaps From Page To Stage

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 6:26 pm

The Long Walk, Brian Castner's memoir of PTSD and a difficult homecoming, will soon be an opera.
YouTube

Iraq veteran Brian Castner wrote a book about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder for his kids, so they could someday know what he'd been going through when he came home from war.

Read more

12:13pm

Thu June 20, 2013
National Security

At A Texas Base, Battling Army's Top Threat: Suicide

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 6:42 pm

Soldiers approach armored vehicles after a training exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, in January.
Juan Carlos Llorca AP

Suicide killed more American troops last year than combat in Afghanistan, and that is likely to be the case again this year.

According to the Pentagon, there were at least 349 confirmed suicides in 2012, compared with 310 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in the same period.

Read more

2:53am

Wed May 29, 2013
National Security

For Ailing Vets In Rural Areas, Tele-Medicine Can Be The Cure

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 9:05 pm

Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, meets with vets at the VFW Hall in Nome, Alaska.
David Gilkey NPR

Howard Lincoln of White Mountain, Alaska, doesn't always hear it when people knock on his door. He's 82 and he still has a little shrapnel in his jaw from a mortar shell that nearly killed him in the Korean War 60 years ago.

"We heard it whistling, but I was the third one in line running toward the bunker," he recalls.

Wounds to his face, arm and hip laid him up in a Tokyo hospital for quite a while. But he recovered, came home to Alaska in 1955 and says he never applied for Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) benefits.

Read more

4:46pm

Tue May 28, 2013
Around the Nation

Forgotten For Decades, WWII Alaskans Finally Get Their Due

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 8:43 am

Frankie Kuzuguk, 82, gets a hug from his daughter Marilyn Kuzuguk at Quyanna Care Center in Nome, Alaska, after receiving an official honorable discharge and a distinguished service coin from visiting Veterans Affairs officials. The VA is still tracking down the few surviving members of the World War II Alaska Territorial Guard or delivering benefits to their next of kin.
David Gilkey NPR

Alaskan Clyde Iyatunguk grew up hearing stories about the U.S. Army colonel, Marvin 'Muktuk' Marston, who helped his father trade his spear for a rifle, to protect his homeland during World War II.

Marston is a household name with Native Alaskans. The nickname comes from an Eskimo eating contest — muktuk is whale skin and blubber, eaten raw.

After the Japanese reached the Aleutian Islands in 1942, Marston traveled by dogsled across Alaska looking for volunteers who knew how to fight and survive in the Arctic terrain.

Read more

3:44am

Tue May 28, 2013
Around the Nation

Searching For Veterans On Alaska's Remote Edges

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 8:18 pm

Daniel K. Omedelena, 71, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1968-69. A disproportionate number of veterans live in rural, sometimes remote parts of the country, like Wales, Alaska. As the veteran population ages, their health care needs increase, but many have not even filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
David Gilkey NPR

When he was in Vietnam, Isaac Oxereok's small build made him ideal for tunnel-ratting: running with a pistol and a flashlight into underground passages built by the Viet Cong. In 1967 he finished his tour with the Army and returned home to Wales, Alaska. Oxereok knew he wasn't quite right, but there wasn't anyone around to tell him how to get help.

"Post-traumatic syndrome?" he said. "I went through that I guess, mostly on my own. Some wounds never really show. So inside was kind of messed up."

Read more

3:05am

Thu March 21, 2013
America's Woman Warriors

Sexual Violence Victims Say Military Justice System Is 'Broken'

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 1:51 pm

Myla Haider (shown at a press conference in Washington, D.C., in 2011) says she initially decided not to report that she'd been raped because she'd "never met one victim who was able to report the crime and still retain their military career."
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Myla Haider took a roundabout route to becoming an agent in the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, or CID. Wars kept interrupting her training.

"My commander wanted to take me to Iraq as the intelligence analyst for the battalion, so I gave up my seat in CID school," Haider says.

She speaks in a steady, "just the facts ma'am" tone. Once a cop always a cop, the 37-year-old says.

Read more

3:08am

Wed March 20, 2013
National Security

Off The Battlefield, Military Women Face Risks From Male Troops

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 9:30 am

Jamie Livingston was sexually abused while serving in the Navy. She now lives in El Paso, Texas.
David Gilkey NPR

Dora Hernandez gave a decade of her life to the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard, but some of the dangers surprised her.

"The worst thing for me is that you don't have to worry about the enemy, you have to worry about your own soldiers," she says.

Sitting in a circle, a group of women nod in agreement. All are veterans, most have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they're also survivors of another war. According to the Pentagon's own research, more than 1 in 4 women who join the military will be sexually assaulted during their careers.

Read more

3:23am

Mon March 18, 2013
National Security

Women In Combat, And The Price They Pay

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 2:30 pm

Staff Sgt. Jessica Keown, with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas, served with a female engagement team, or FET, in Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

America has been debating the role of women in combat since 1779.

That's when the Continental Congress first awarded a military disability pension to Mary Corbin after she manned a cannon in the Revolutionary War at the battle of Fort Washington in New York. Corbin got only half the pension male soldiers received, but she asked for — and received — the full ration of rum.

Today, as the Pentagon decides how to remove the combat exclusion, women still have trouble getting fully recognized for what they've achieved at war.

Read more

5:52am

Sun March 17, 2013
National Security

Female Soldiers Face Tough Switch From Front Lines To Homefront

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 10:36 am

Sgt. Jaclyn O'Shea (second from left) and Sgt. Alyssa Corcoran (right) stand with Afghan commandos in Logar province, Afghanistan.
Courtesy of Jaclyn O'Shea

In a series of reports this week, NPR's Quil Lawrence looks at some of the most pressing challenges facing America's nearly 2 million female veterans. Like men, they often need assistance in finding jobs, dealing with PTSD and reintegrating into their families. And all too often, women say their military experience included sexual harassment or sexual assault.

Read more

3:13pm

Tue February 19, 2013
National Security

A Wounded Soldier Stands Tall At Reunion With His Platoon

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 8:18 pm

As part of homecoming ceremonies at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state in January, Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries — with crutches and prosthetic legs — joins his unit in formation as the national anthem is played. The homecoming marked the first time Jeffries had seen his platoon since he lost both his legs in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan last October.
Florangela Davila for NPR

U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries spent most of last year in Afghanistan, on dusty, hot patrols in the villages outside Kandahar. Last fall, on Oct. 6, his tour ended three months early.

"I was clearing an area and I had the metal detector. Then we had word that there was two guys coming toward our position," Jeffries recalled later that month.

Read more

Pages