For as long as wars have been waged, soldiers have been sent to kill or be killed. The lucky ones survive. Some return home unscathed; others are shell-shocked and emotionally scarred for life.
That’s been true forever. But something changed in Iraq. Thanks to modern medicine, transportation and gear, soldiers survived injuries that would have killed yesterday’s troops. They patrolled streets without battle lines, where smiling civilians waved one day and silently watched ambushes the next. Multiple deployments moved soldiers from war to home and back, again and again.
Most found a way to cope. But in one Fort Carson unit that took heavy casualties, men began to break. Some recall war crimes. Some came home, to Colorado Springs, and kept killing.
Those killings have prompted Fort Carson to re-examine how it treats soldiers. For the first time, the Army is demanding that commanders look for signs that a soldier is in trouble. This issue is of particular concern to the Pikes Peak region. When soldiers come home, they bring the baggage of intense, prolonged brutality.
Today, following months of interviews with soldiers and their families and the examination of medical and military records, court documents and photographs, The Gazette presents the first of a two-day report that retraces the steps of the soldiers who ended up behind bars.
A word of caution: The details of battle are graphic, and the language of soldiers is, at times, profane.
Finally, a disclosure in the interest of keeping our journalism transparent:
One former soldier interviewed for this report, Kenneth Eastridge, is serving time in prison. After Eastridge’s arrest, his court-appointed lawyer was Amanda Philipps, wife of Dave Philipps, the reporter who wrote these stories. Dave Philipps did not make contact with Eastridge until after his wife’s professional obligations to Eastridge were concluded. Amanda Philipps provided neither access to, nor information about, Eastridge.
Jeff Thomas, editor