He had joined the Marines enthusiastically...and served as a flight mechanic for eight years. Not long after 9/11, he began helping to fly materials into Afghanistan with the first wave of U.S. troops.
In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans — some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos — had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.
Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."
Marine sergeant Jeffrey Lehner returned home from Afghanistan with PTSD. He tried to mask his pain with alcohol and drugs, even while attending group therapy sessions set up through his local VA. Sadly, he lost his battle with PTSD and became another statistic in the PTSD Timeline.
This Marine's story covered today in the LA Times. More...