The U.S. military has always excelled at training soldiers, but they’ve had a tougher time helping them adjust to peace. The author joins 11 combat veterans in Nepal as they test the most promising new postwar therapy: adventure.
By Brian Mockenhaupt
TWO YEARS LATER AND STILL HE IMAGINED HIS BLINDNESS AS A TERRIBLE DREAM. He’d wake up and see again. The mountains. A wife whose face he knew only by touch. The sunrise. Everything. His last vision of this world was a dusty, darkened street in northern Baghdad while at the wheel of an enormous armored vehicle. The bomb was simple but lethal: a metal tube stuffed with explosives and capped with a concave copper disk. Powered by the blast, the disk transformed into a jet of molten copper that bored through the thick front passenger door. Shrapnel sliced through his friend Sergeant Victor Cota, then into him. Metal punched through his right temple, ruptured his eyes, gouged holes in his left thigh and right biceps, and mangled his left forearm. Face crushed and body scorched, he was covered in so much of Cota’s blood that fellow soldiers thought he was dead, until he stirred from unconsciousness and wiped his face. Cota died in the truck, and Private First Class Steve Baskis woke up a week later in Walter Reed Army Medical Center to more pain than he’d ever felt and a doctor telling him he’d never see again. Yet he carried an optimism many couldn’t understand. “I just love living, more than anything,” he’d often say.