The U.S. war in Afghanistan was launched a month after terrorist attacks via hijacked airliners in New York and other locations killed more than 3,000 people. In response, the United States and allied nations sought to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, put a stop to its use of Afghanistan as a base and remove the Taliban regime from power. Then, in March 2003, the United States and its allies invaded Iraq, aiming to topple dictator Saddam Hussein. Both actions had some quick results but were followed by long years of occupation and insurgency, with very high costs in terms of money and lives. On December 15, 2011, the U.S. secretary of defense declared the Iraq war officially over, and the last U.S. troops left Iraq three days later. In June 2010 the war in Afghanistan became the second-longest continuous military conflict in U.S. history. It continues to this day, although President Obama has stated that all U.S. troops will be out by 2014.1

No matter when the Afghanistan war ends, the effects of both of these wars on the Americans who served in them-more than 2.3 million-are far from over. Deaths among U.S. forces are far lower than those in the Vietnam War, but injuries sustained by the survivors may well be harder to detect and longer-lasting. Because of advances in combat medicine, faster evacuations and better body armor, soldiers wounded in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are eight times more likely to survive than those wounded

in the Vietnam War. An estimated one-third of these veterans return with traumatic brain injuries, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Many have difficulty finding employment, and many are homeless. The numbers and costs-in medical treatment, broken families, suicides, medical disability claims-are already huge, and over the next forty years, costs could reach $930 billion (The Week 2012).