Quil Lawrence

David Aquila ("Quil") Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

Previously, Lawrence served as NPR's Bureau Chief in Kabul. He joined NPR in 2009 as Baghdad Bureau Chief – capping off ten years of reporting in Iraq and all the bordering countries. That experience made the foundation for his first book Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, published in 2008.

Before coming to NPR, Lawrence was based in Jerusalem, as Middle East correspondent for The World, a BBC/PRI co-production. For the BBC he covered the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 and returned to Afghanistan periodically to report on development, the drug trade and insurgency.

Lawrence began his career as a freelancer for NPR and various newspapers while based in Bogota, Colombia, covering Latin America. Other reporting trips took him to Sudan, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

A native of Maine, Lawrence studied history at Brandeis University, with concentrations in the Middle East and Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Arabic.

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Around the Nation
2:21 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Vets-Turned-Firefighters Find Brotherhood, Purpose

Probationary firefighter and veteran Victor Ramos practices driving the fire truck at the 16th Street Firehouse of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue in Union City, N.J.
Melanie Burford for NPR

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 9:04 am

Veteran Chris Delplato wanted to be a firefighter for a long time.

"Ever since I was a little kid — [toy] truck and everything," Delplato says. But he only just got his dream job, after first joining the Navy and serving in the Persian Gulf.

He was hired by New Jersey's North Hudson Fire Department, which has brought on 43 veterans this year.

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Afghanistan
2:40 am
Wed September 25, 2013

U.S. Soldier Fights For Afghan Interpreter Who Saved His Life

Janis Shinwari is seen wearing his body armor in 2008. Shinwari, an Afghan interpreter who assisted U.S. forces, has been waiting three years for a visa to enter the United States. He is now in hiding in Afghanistan.
Matt Zeller

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 9:40 am

Army Capt. Matt Zeller had been told that his Afghan comrades would make a big show of hospitality. He'd read that the Afghan code of honor would mean protecting his life with their own. Sure enough, that's what his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, pledged to him when they met in April of 2008.

"I expected him to say it. I didn't think he'd make good on his promise within two weeks of my arrival," Zeller says. "Literally pick up a weapon and ... save my life," says Zeller.

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Around the Nation
3:53 am
Sat September 14, 2013

For Wounded Vets, Climbing Half Dome Only Half The Mission

At base camp, Timmy O'Neill, gives instructions to volunteers and veterans participating in the week's hiking and climbing activities.
David P Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 1:50 pm

Timmy O'Neill is guiding Steve Baskis through ancient yellow pines that almost touch the sky. They're hiking all day to base camp in California's Yosemite National Park, 2,000 feet up in Little Yosemite Valley.

Taking Baskis by the hand, O'Neill traces the distant ridge of Half Dome, a bald rock rising almost a mile from the valley floor. That's tomorrow's challenge.

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Around the Nation
4:22 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

VA Still Under Pressure To Reduce Disability Claim Backlog

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 5:38 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

For years, the backlog of disability claims for veterans has been fodder for politicians, pundits and even comedians, like Jon Stewart.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART: And paper disability records still undigitized and piled up so high that the floor of one VA field office is going to collapse.

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Deceptive Cadence
4:02 am
Sat July 20, 2013

A Veteran's Piercing True Story Leaps From Page To Stage

The Long Walk, Brian Castner's memoir of PTSD and a difficult homecoming, will soon be an opera.
YouTube

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 5:26 pm

Iraq veteran Brian Castner wrote a book about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder for his kids, so they could someday know what he'd been going through when he came home from war.

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National Security
11:13 am
Thu June 20, 2013

At A Texas Base, Battling Army's Top Threat: Suicide

Soldiers approach armored vehicles after a training exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, in January.
Juan Carlos Llorca AP

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 5:42 pm

Suicide killed more American troops last year than combat in Afghanistan, and that is likely to be the case again this year.

According to the Pentagon, there were at least 349 confirmed suicides in 2012, compared with 310 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in the same period.

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National Security
1:53 am
Wed May 29, 2013

For Ailing Vets In Rural Areas, Tele-Medicine Can Be The Cure

Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, meets with vets at the VFW Hall in Nome, Alaska.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 8:05 pm

Howard Lincoln of White Mountain, Alaska, doesn't always hear it when people knock on his door. He's 82 and he still has a little shrapnel in his jaw from a mortar shell that nearly killed him in the Korean War 60 years ago.

"We heard it whistling, but I was the third one in line running toward the bunker," he recalls.

Wounds to his face, arm and hip laid him up in a Tokyo hospital for quite a while. But he recovered, came home to Alaska in 1955 and says he never applied for Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) benefits.

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Around the Nation
4:12 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Forgotten For Decades, WWII Alaskans Finally Get Their Due

Frankie Kuzuguk, 82, gets a hug from his daughter Marilyn Kuzuguk at Quyanna Care Center in Nome, Alaska, after receiving an official honorable discharge and a distinguished service coin from visiting Veterans Affairs officials. The VA is still tracking down the few surviving members of the World War II Alaska Territorial Guard or delivering benefits to their next of kin.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 7:43 am

Alaskan Clyde Iyatunguk grew up hearing stories about the U.S. Army colonel, Marvin 'Muktuk' Marston, who helped his father trade his spear for a rifle, to protect his homeland during World War II.

Marston is a household name with Native Alaskans. The nickname comes from an Eskimo eating contest — muktuk is whale skin and blubber, eaten raw.

After the Japanese reached the Aleutian Islands in 1942, Marston traveled by dogsled across Alaska looking for volunteers who knew how to fight and survive in the Arctic terrain.

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Around the Nation
2:44 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Searching For Veterans On Alaska's Remote Edges

Daniel K. Omedelena, 71, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1968-69. A disproportionate number of veterans live in rural, sometimes remote parts of the country, like Wales, Alaska. As the veteran population ages, their health care needs increase, but many have not even filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 7:18 pm

When he was in Vietnam, Isaac Oxereok's small build made him ideal for tunnel-ratting: running with a pistol and a flashlight into underground passages built by the Viet Cong. In 1967 he finished his tour with the Army and returned home to Wales, Alaska. Oxereok knew he wasn't quite right, but there wasn't anyone around to tell him how to get help.

"Post-traumatic syndrome?" he said. "I went through that I guess, mostly on my own. Some wounds never really show. So inside was kind of messed up."

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America's Woman Warriors
2:05 am
Thu March 21, 2013

Sexual Violence Victims Say Military Justice System Is 'Broken'

Myla Haider (shown at a press conference in Washington, D.C., in 2011) says she initially decided not to report that she'd been raped because she'd "never met one victim who was able to report the crime and still retain their military career."
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 12:51 pm

Myla Haider took a roundabout route to becoming an agent in the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, or CID. Wars kept interrupting her training.

"My commander wanted to take me to Iraq as the intelligence analyst for the battalion, so I gave up my seat in CID school," Haider says.

She speaks in a steady, "just the facts ma'am" tone. Once a cop always a cop, the 37-year-old says.

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National Security
2:08 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Off The Battlefield, Military Women Face Risks From Male Troops

Jamie Livingston was sexually abused while serving in the Navy. She now lives in El Paso, Texas.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 8:30 am

Dora Hernandez gave a decade of her life to the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard, but some of the dangers surprised her.

"The worst thing for me is that you don't have to worry about the enemy, you have to worry about your own soldiers," she says.

Sitting in a circle, a group of women nod in agreement. All are veterans, most have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they're also survivors of another war. According to the Pentagon's own research, more than 1 in 4 women who join the military will be sexually assaulted during their careers.

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National Security
2:23 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Women In Combat, And The Price They Pay

Staff Sgt. Jessica Keown, with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas, served with a female engagement team, or FET, in Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 1:30 pm

America has been debating the role of women in combat since 1779.

That's when the Continental Congress first awarded a military disability pension to Mary Corbin after she manned a cannon in the Revolutionary War at the battle of Fort Washington in New York. Corbin got only half the pension male soldiers received, but she asked for — and received — the full ration of rum.

Today, as the Pentagon decides how to remove the combat exclusion, women still have trouble getting fully recognized for what they've achieved at war.

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National Security
4:52 am
Sun March 17, 2013

Female Soldiers Face Tough Switch From Front Lines To Homefront

Sgt. Jaclyn O'Shea (second from left) and Sgt. Alyssa Corcoran (right) stand with Afghan commandos in Logar province, Afghanistan.
Courtesy of Jaclyn O'Shea

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 9:36 am

In a series of reports this week, NPR's Quil Lawrence looks at some of the most pressing challenges facing America's nearly 2 million female veterans. Like men, they often need assistance in finding jobs, dealing with PTSD and reintegrating into their families. And all too often, women say their military experience included sexual harassment or sexual assault.

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National Security
2:13 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

A Wounded Soldier Stands Tall At Reunion With His Platoon

As part of homecoming ceremonies at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state in January, Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries — with crutches and prosthetic legs — joins his unit in formation as the national anthem is played. The homecoming marked the first time Jeffries had seen his platoon since he lost both his legs in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan last October.
Florangela Davila for NPR

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 7:18 pm

U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries spent most of last year in Afghanistan, on dusty, hot patrols in the villages outside Kandahar. Last fall, on Oct. 6, his tour ended three months early.

"I was clearing an area and I had the metal detector. Then we had word that there was two guys coming toward our position," Jeffries recalled later that month.

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Around the Nation
2:52 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

Shooting Of 'American Sniper' Raises Questions About PTSD Treatment

Chris Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL and best-selling author of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, was killed at a gun range near Glen Rose, Texas, on Feb. 2.
Paul Moseley MCT/Landov

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 5:12 pm

Police in Texas have charged Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old U.S. Marine reservist, with capital murder. Arrest records indicate that Routh had been twice taken to a mental hospital in recent months, and had told police he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The Impact of War
1:32 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Suicide Hotline Fights To Keep Vets And Troops Alive

David Easterling, manager of the Suicide Prevention Program at Fort Riley in Kansas spray-paints Army boots white in 2009 as part of an on-base display to commemorate the six Fort Riley soldiers who committed suicide in 2008.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 4:06 pm

At a suicide prevention center in upstate New York, America's troops and veterans are calling in for help.

And that help is needed more than ever. This past year witnessed a terrible death toll from suicide. For the first time in a decade of war, more active-duty troops have taken their own lives this year than have died fighting in Afghanistan.

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U.S.
2:26 am
Thu December 27, 2012

For Veterans, The Wait For Disability Claims Grows Longer

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began the year with a promise to cut wait times disability benefits claims. Instead, the backlog of pending claims has worsened.
Karen Bleier Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 1:46 pm

Kevin English served three tours as a Marine in Iraq. When he came home to Arizona, he suffered from vicious headaches and neck pain that made it hard to keep a job. The worst day, he says, was when he found he couldn't lift a simple aluminum ladder.

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Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
4:44 am
Sun November 11, 2012

Veterans Deploy To Northeast After Superstorm Sandy

Veterans from around the country have deployed to the Northeast to help after Superstorm Sandy. Jeff Blaney (left) of San Francisco was in the Army and Jamie Havig was a Navy medic attached to the Marines in Iraq.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Sun November 11, 2012 1:22 pm

Among the thousands of volunteers helping the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey are hundreds of military veterans who have turned out to help.

For this group, work like this seems to address a real need for a sense of mission. Former troops who have been cleaning up and rebuilding say that volunteering helps them as much as it supports the local residents.

In front of Sami McFarlanes' house off Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens, N.Y., a group of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans take chainsaws to a huge spruce tree hung up on wires.

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Election 2012
5:43 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

New York To Allow Voters To Cast Ballots By Affidavit

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now many who will cast presidential ballots in New York have been facing a complicated post-storm challenge - where they should vote. Superstorm Sandy has displaced many residents from their homes and some polling places are out of commission because of storm damage. Late today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order, telling voters they can cast ballots wherever they want.

I asked NPR's Quil Lawrence in New York about just what Governor Cuomo said today.

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The Impact of War
4:03 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Vet Walks On New Legs, With A Little Help From Mom

Nick Staback, who lost both of his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan, talks with his mother, Maria Staback, in Scranton, Pa. Maria Staback took a leave of absence from her job to move in with her son while he was recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:58 pm

On furlough from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this summer, 21-year-old Nick Staback lounges on his parents' back porch in Scranton, Pa., taking potshots at sparrows with a replica sniper rifle. The long plastic gun fires pellets that mostly just scare the birds away.

It's been a tough year for Staback since his last foot patrol in Afghanistan.

"We [were] just channeling down a beaten trail, of course, you just don't know what's on it," he says. "We had the mine sweepers out front and everything like that."

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It's All Politics
2:31 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Military Vote Seen As A Key To Capturing Virginia

Mitt Romney takes the stage at a campaign rally at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Va., on Sept. 8.
Brian Snyder Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 7:38 pm

Both presidential campaigns are focusing on just a few swing states, and the relatively few remaining undecided voters. One of those states is Virginia, where a key swing constituency is military veterans.

Troops and veterans have long been considered a natural part of the Republican base. But President Obama is pushing hard for the veterans' vote to help him in a state he captured in 2008.

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Sports
1:59 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

A Year After War Wound, Vet Wins Paralympic Gold

Lt. Brad Snyder mounts the starting blocks while training on his starting technique. Snyder was permanently blinded last year by an IED in Afghanistan, and is now competing in the Paralympics in London.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 9:06 pm

The first thing you need to know about Navy Lt. Brad Snyder is that he's a bit intense.

If you go to the U.S. Naval Academy, swim competitively, and make the cut for the Navy's elite bomb-disposal squad, you're probably going to be the competitive type.

"Crossfit, surfing, biking, running, swimming, you name it I'm into it. Rock climbing," says Snyder.

The second thing you should know is that Snyder plans to continue doing all these things — even though he's now blind.

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Sports
2:18 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Doing It To Win: Veterans Raise Bar At Paralympics

U.S. rowers Rob Jones and Oksana Masters train at the Rivanna Reservoir in Charlottesville, Va. The pair will compete in adaptive rowing at the London Paralympics this week. Jones, a former U.S. Marine, lost both legs to an improvised land mine in southern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 10:22 am

On a placid summer morning last month, before the Virginia heat could hit them, a former U.S. Marine and his partner lifted their rowing scull into the glassy water of the Rivanna River, near Charlottesville.

"First thing I do is take these legs off," said Rob Jones, who like his rowing partner, Oksana Masters, is a double, above-the-knee amputee. They're the U.S. team for mixed-doubles rowing at the 2012 London Paralympics, which started Wednesday.

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Around the Nation
9:20 am
Fri August 3, 2012

A New Generation Of Vets Faces Challenges At Home

Homeless veterans, their families and volunteers stand in line for food at "Stand Down," an annual event hosted by the Veterans Village of San Diego. The VA estimates that about 67,000 vets are homeless.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 5:06 pm

Homeless veterans of the Vietnam War have been a face of American poverty for decades, and now some veterans of a younger generation are dealing with the same difficult issues.

"I had my apartment up until 2011," says Joshua, a 28-year-old Navy vet, who asked not to give his last name because of the stigma of being homeless. "[I] couldn't keep up with the rent; I did a little couch surfing and then ended up on the street for a while."

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Afghanistan
3:41 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Afghan Public Protection Force Profile

A U.S. soldier watches members of the Afghan Public Protection Force arrive at the transition ceremony on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul on March 15. The APPF replaces all private security contractors in the country.
Ahmad Jamshid AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:54 am

Nearly two years ago, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that gun-toting private security companies in his country be brought under state control. But the Afghan force to replace the foreign-funded contractors is off to a rocky start.

According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the new force will increase security costs for USAID projects and could even shut some of them down, at a loss of about $899 million. USAID in Kabul disagrees, and the dispute has gone public.

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