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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Journalist Greg Jaffe On The Divide Between Soldiers And Civilians

Members of the 101st Airborne Division march in Fort Campbell, Ky. (AP)

By: Alex Ashlock

We spoke to Washington Post military reporter Greg Jaffe today about the fertilizer being used to make improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. The ammonium nitrate fertilizer is made at two plants in Pakistan and slips easily across the border into Afghanistan, where at a cost of only $40, it’s turned into a deadly weapon.

Jaffe has been covering the military for the last 12 years and besides focusing on the actual fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has also written about the divide between the military and the rest of society, because such a small percentage of Americans have any connection to the military.

Jaffe has been to Fort Hood in Texas, and this week he’ll be visiting Ft. Campbell in Kentucky to work on another story about that gap.

“These places are almost like little gated cities,” he says. “We’ve spent a lot of money to make these nice places to live in large part to compensate our soldiers and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made over the last decade. But they’re also focused on completely different issues from the rest of the country. For them it’s cycling back and forth from Afghanistan and dealing with the residue of these wars, whether it’s injured soldiers or family members trying to get over the loss of a soldier. It’s striking to me that a lot of spouses when their husbands are killed, you’d expect them to go back home, but their home has been these little military communities, so they stay.”

Jaffe says he was struck when, at Fort Hood, in front of the chain store PX, he saw parking spaces reserved for those who lost loved ones in the war.

“There was actually a sign that says ‘Reserved Gold Star Parking,’ and a Gold Star family is a family who has lost a loved one in the war… And you begin to realize that, hey, this is a world where people.. look like the rest of America, a little bit more fit, a little bit younger, but they almost live in this kind of parallel universe,” he said.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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