A side of the Iraqi War that you rarely read about:
Jesus Bocanegra was an Army infantry scout for units that pursued Saddam Hussein in his hometown of Tikrit. After he returned home to McAllen, Texas, it took him six months to find a job.
He was diagnosed with PTSD and is waiting for the VA to process his disability claim. He goes to the local Vet Center but is unable to relate to the Vietnam-era counselors.
“I had real bad flashbacks. I couldn’t control them,” Bocanegra, 23, says. “I saw the murder of children, women. It was just horrible for anyone to experience.”
Bocanegra recalls calling in Apache helicopter strikes on a house by the Tigris River where he had seen crates of enemy ammunition carried in. When the gunfire ended, there was silence.
But then children’s cries and screams drifted from the destroyed home, he says. “I didn’t know there were kids there,” he says. “Those screams are the most horrible thing you can hear.”
At home in the Rio Grande Valley, on the Mexico border, he says young people have no concept of what he’s experienced. His readjustment has been difficult: His friends threw a homecoming party for him, and he got arrested for drunken driving on the way home.
“The Army is the gateway to get away from poverty here,” Bocanegra says. “You go to the Army and expect to be better off, but the best job you can get (back home) is flipping burgers. … What am I supposed to do now? How are you going to live?”