The first US soldier to die in the military campaign that followed the attacks of 9/11 was Evander Earl Andrews, a 36 year old from a farm family in Solon, Maine.  He was an Air Force Master Sgt. and heavy equipment operator who died in a fork lift accident while building an airstrip in Qatar in support of the invasion of Afghanistan.  He left a wife and four children between the ages of 2 and 9. 

The first US soldier to die as the 10th year of the war began was Edwin Gonzalez, a 22 year old Navy medic assigned to the Marines who died in a roadside bomb attack in Helmand Province on October 8th, 2010.  Nicknamed Superman by his friends, he had graduated from high school in North Miami, Florida, 3 years earlier, and had just been married.

While most Americans have seen the brief stories of people like these two who died in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan, the true impact of their deaths can escape anyone not personally involved as a family member or friend of the over 6,600 dead.  The lost potential of a life not lived and this large new community of bereaved parents, spouses, children, siblings, and close friends are the main painful homefront legacy of these wars. Moreover, although the military suicide rate has historically been quite low, it has climbed steadily since the 2003 invasion and reached 349 deaths in 2012, exceeding the civilian rate. 

Most of the public are aware, at least, of the approximate number of US troops who have died, but even here the human cost of the wars to US and coalition forces extends well beyond them. Large numbers of private contractors working for the US military in those war zones have also died providing oil transport, food services, and other logistical and security support to the troops. 

Following the official withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in December 2011, a host of contractors and US State Department and other government agency employees remain in the country.  In January 2012, the United States Embassy had hired 5,000 contractors to protect its 11,000 employees, and to train Iraqi troops to use United States weapons systems and equipment [1]. By the end of September 2012, there were 13,500 contractors working in Iraq for the Pentagon and the Department of State, and over 21,000 private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. [2]

Contractors do not enjoy the benefits, protections, and recognition that uniformed troops receive:  contractor deaths during these wars have been underreported, their families are often not compensated for their deaths and injuries, and contractor healthcare has often been substandard.  In particular, foreign workers for US contractors have had their deaths and injuries unrecognized or compensated. (Page updated as of March 2013)

ARTICLE 

[1]  Michael S. Schmidt, “Flexing Muscle, Iraq Detains Civilian Contractors,” (2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/world/middleeast/asserting-its-sovereignty-iraq-detains-american-contractors.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.

[2]  Catherine Lutz, “The costs that continue, the army that remains,” (2011), http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/07/the_costs_that_continue_the_army_that_remains; DoD, Contractor support of U.S. operations in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility to include Iraq and Afghanistan, October 5, 2012, http://www.acq.osd.mil/log/PS/CENTCOM_reports.html.

[3]  Veterans for Common Sense, Iraq and Afghanistan Impact Report.

[4]  Douglas L. Kriner and Francis X. Shen. The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

INFOGRAPHIC 

[1] IMAGE of Geraldine Marquez by US Air Force via Wikimedia Commons.  Caption: Jason Newell, “Geraldine Marquez:  ‘She had a heart of gold,’” (2007), http://www.sgvtribune.com/soldiers/ci_5392263.

[2] Stephen Manning, "Navy Lt. Kylan A Jones-Huffman," (2011), http://militarytimes.com/valor/navy-lt-kylan-a-jones-huffman/256717/.  

[3] "Lance Cpl. James Eric Swain," (2010), http://freedomremembered.com/?s=eric+swain.

[4]  Spc. Kedith L. Jacobs, (2012), http://freedomremembered.com/index.php/spc-kedith-l-jacobs/.

[5] Spc. Patricia L. Horne, (2012),  http://freedomremembered.com/index.php/pfc-patricia-l-horne/.