Reed Holway spent 13 months in Iraq. He says PTSD brought on a drinking problem when he returned to the States — and that eventually led to a bad-conduct discharge. Vets with "bad paper" have trouble getting any VA health benefits — even for PTSD.
Credit Marisa Penaloza / NPR
Brandon Bailey worked as a flight nurse evacuating wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. After a blow to the head and being diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD, he was court-martialed for theft and drug use, sentenced to three months in prison and dismissed from the Air Force.
Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.
None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. This morning, in Soweto, South Africa, crowds continue to congregate around the family home of Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday. During the struggle against apartheid, Soweto became a symbol of the separation of the races, both physically and economically.
Renee Montagne talks to South African musician Johnny Clegg about his relationship with Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. Clegg says his banned 1980s song that named Mandela and became an anthem came to him one day when he woke to gunshots and wondered "who can bridge you and me, every South African."
Nelson Mandela is universally admired today, but was a controversial figure for much of his life. To reconstruct what that controversy was about, we turn to Bill Keller. He's a New York Times columnist and former executive editor who once covered South Africa and wrote a youth biography of Mandela. He's on the line.