Arturo Franco
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Veteran Arturo Franco, who has served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in his apartment in Wilsonville

Franco and Cat
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ARTURO FRANCO IN FRONT OF A FLAG SIGNED BY SOLDIERS OF THE 82ND AIRBORNE AFTER HIS SERVICE IN AFGHANISTAN.

A month after he graduated from Dallas High School in 1999, Arturo Franco, who always considered himself a patriot, enlisted in the Army. After serving in Kosovo and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division, he was deployed to Iraq in October 2004 with Bravo Company of the 2 /162 Infantry Regiment. In an attempt to root out Iraqi insurgents, his unit often conducted raids on homes.

Honorably discharged from the Army, Franco, now 28, works full-time as a security guard and spends the rest of his days bunkered in his near-empty apartment playing Xbox video games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Among his closest friends are other gamer vets who speak to one another on headsets while they fight a virtual enemy.

Franco Flag
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Franco finds it difficult to go out in public. He shops at midnight to avoid crowds, takes sleeping pills many nights, and experiences severe panic attacks a couple of times each month. “I’m not who I used to be,” he says. “I sacrificed my innocence and my youth.”

John Fett
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JOHN FETT AND HIS MOTHER, MARY GEDDRY, AT THEIR HOME IN COQUILLE.

Two weeks before 9/11, John Fett, now 28, enlisted in the Marines to pay for college, but after watching images of the World Trade Center towers falling, he was overcome by feelings of patriotism. Deployed to Iraq soon after the invasion in 2003, he served as an infantryman with the Fifth Marine Division, Second Battalion, Fox Company, Weapons Platoon. During a firefight in Baghdad, Fett watched as an Iraqi father and his two children were shot and killed. It was one of several incidents that still affect him. Upon his return, he reported having nightmares two or three times a month, but within a year, they were occurring two or three times a night. He began drinking heavily. After seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the Roseburg Veterans Administration Medical Center in Southern Oregon, Fett is now going back to school at Sierra College in Rocklin, California.

Jacob Meeks
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JACOB MEEKS, IN HIS DORM ROOM AT PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY

Currently the president of the Student Veteran Association (SVA) at Portland State University, Jacob Meeks, 28, served in Kosovo and Afghanistan as a driver and a gunner on a Humvee for the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta Company, 1/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

After two tours, he decided not to re-enlist. When his unit was later deployed to Iraq, three of his former fellow soldiers were killed by improvised explosive devices (known as IEDs). “It gives you a lot of guilt, you know? ‘Why’s he have to die and not me?’” he says. Though Meeks has experienced the feelings of confusion, hypervigilance, and displacement common to those suffering from PTSD, through the SVA he works to create strong support networks for returning veterans at PSU and in the Portland area. Among other projects, the group sets up college scholarships for vets.

Sergio Kochergin
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SERGIO KOCHERGIN AT HIS HOME IN EUGENE, OREGON

Born in Ukraine, Sergio Kochergin, 24, emigrated to the United States when he was 13 and joined the Marines at 17 as a way to “say thank you to the government for giving my family a home.”

He was deployed to Iraq twice, once in 2003 for nine months and then in 2004 for seven months. “As soon as we got there, we lost our company commander,” he says. “Every day, people were getting blown up.” Kochergin also served as a scout sniper, and there were days, he says, “when we would just go out and look for something to shoot.”

He didn’t realize how much his experiences had affected him until he returned home, where he began abusing drugs and alcohol. One morning, a friend of Kochergin’s found him passed out, a pistol lying next to his head. Now Kochergin speaks about his experiences for Iraq Veterans Against the War. He is completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon and hopes to join the Peace Corps when he graduates.

Ash Woolson
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ASH WOOLSON AT HIS HOME IN BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

To help pay for college, Ash Woolson, 27, signed up for the National Guard in 1999, just after his 18th birthday. Deployed to Iraq in May 2003, Woolson was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a month before the end of his tour, for surgery on a hernia. He returned home with other problems as well. Woolson is haunted by the memory of a young Iraqi girl who, along with two of her family’s goats, was accidentally run down and killed by a U.S. military convoy during a routine patrol. Woolson later learned that the military offered the girl’s family compensation for their loss. He heard that the goats, because they were part of the family’s livelihood, were worth $200 each; the girl was worth $100.

Woolson House
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ASH WOOLSON AT HIS HOME IN BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

His house is a gathering place for those volunteering with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Woolson lives with his wife and 2-year-old daughter in Bellingham.

Seth Manzel
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SETH MANZEL (IN DOORWAY) AND TWO FRIENDS AT A FOURTH OF JULY PARTY HELD AT MANZEL’S HOME IN LAKEWOOD, WASHINGTON

Seth Manzel, 29, joined the military in 2002 after being laid off from his job at a gun store in Nebraska. A vehicle commander and gunner in the 25th Infantry Division, 1/5 Infantry Regiment, Alpha Company, Second Platoon, Manzel says that while Abu Ghraib may have forced the U.S. military to curb prisoner abuses, he saw such abuse continue at the hands of the Iraqi police. Once, he saw four policemen punching a suspect repeatedly in the kidneys and attempting to sodomize him with a bottle. After being diagnosed with PTSD, Manzel began working as a security guard at what he calls a “low-rent hotel” in Tacoma, Washington, though he wants to open a coffee shop near Fort Lewis for soldiers and their families. He says that for now, it’s good to have a night job, since he suffers from sleeplessness and hypervigilance.

Sean McKenzie
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SHAWN MCKENZIE AND HIS GRANDMOTHER, VIOLET HOLTORF, AT HER HOUSE IN AUMSVILLE
Like his grandfather and cousin, who served in World War II and Vietnam, respectively, Shawn Mckenzie, now 30, joined the Army after graduating from Portland State University. Deployed to Iraq in 2005, he served with Fourth Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company, Second Platoon as a vehicle commander. During his 16-month tour, his platoon conducted security patrols in the cities of Mosul, Tal Afar, and Baghdad. After he came home, Mckenzie found himself frustrated by people’s lack of awareness about the war. “It’s like you’ve landed on another planet,” he says of the difference between military and civilian life. For symptoms of PTSD, he sought counseling at the Portland Vet Center, and then he joined the Oregon National Guard. “Being able to put the uniform on…is like going back to something I know,” he says. Mckenzie’s grandmother hopes the war ends before he’s sent back to Iraq: “I think [vets] need to tell what hell guys go through over there,” she says. “It might scare us, but it might make people get mad and demand something be done.”

Arturo Franco
Franco and Cat
Franco Flag
John Fett
Jacob Meeks
Sergio Kochergin
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Ash Woolson
Woolson House
Seth Manzel
Sean McKenzie
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