Maryland's lieutenant governor Anthony Brown is the highest ranking politician in the U.S. who is a veteran of the Iraq War. He served with the Army's 353rd Civil Affairs Command for around nine months in 2004 and 2005. Before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, WAMU Maryland reporter Matt Bush sat down with Brown in his Baltimore office to discuss what he and so many veterans of the War on Terror face when they return home.
What are some of the issues being faced by the thousands of servicemembers returning home as their reintegrate themselves into civilian life?
Generally, there is a challenge for returning servicemembers as they transition from combat back into the community. There is also that invisible injury of war -- some people refer to it as post-traumatic stress disorder or post-traumatic brain injury. We are seeing higher rates of PTSD than ever before.
As we look at the number and percantage of Americans without jobs today, this is a tough economy they're in. The unemployment rate is at levels we haven't experienced in a number of decades. Even within that unemployment -- around nine percent -- the unemployment rate for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly double the national average.
What was the most difficult thing for you personally returning from Iraq?
It was readjusting to family life and recognizing that my family has made a sacrifice too. Soldiers deploy -- we are given a mission and given the resources for that mission, and we have a pretty good idea of what we're getting into. But for families, it's a 365 day unknown. The big challenge for me and many of us who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan is to remember that our families have made a sacrifice too. They needed a period of adjustment to get reacquainted with me.
Was 9/11 discussed much by you and your fellow soldiers as you served in Iraq?
It wasn't. 9/11 was not a topic of discussion. Interestingly enough, I landed in Iraq on Sept. 12 of 2004, so I was thinking about 9/11, because on Sept. 11, I was sitting in a tent in Kuwait ready to go the next day on a C130 into the airport in Baghdad. There's a lot of thoughts that went through my head as to how we had gotten where we are. I suspect that for most, if not all soldiers, we went to Iraq focused on and talking about the mission that was in front of us, and not 9/11.
Previous 9/11 anniversaries were marked by many people taking part in community service projects. As somebody who has served overseas in the aftermath of 9/11, and knowing some people who have made the ultimate sacrifice, is that a good way for people to mark the day?
I think anything we can do to reestablish that national unity that we demonstrated on Sept. 11 and the ensuing days and months to take on the great challenges we face today in our economy, in the workforce, our own financial security at home, is a worthwhile effort.