Today, Fortnight features the Hon. Max Cleland; Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, United States Senator from Georgia, 1997-2003, Secretary of State of Georgia, 1982-1996 and Administrator of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 1977–1981.
Cleland serves as luminary mentor to Fortnight contributor Cpt. Rajiv Srinivasan, a West Point graduate who recently served as platoon leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This edition of Fortnight has featured original essays by Srinivasan, such as A Case for the Academy and Duty, Honor, Loyalty.
In Part I of the chat, Srinivasan, 25, conveys that two of his best friends came back from Afghanistan as amputees. Srinivasan then expresses admiration for Cleland's resilience as a public servant, and advocate for disabled veterans. Cleland says that his experience at the VA (and in Senate) made him want to ensure that each returning soldier is matched up with a veteran mentor.
"I now believe there is no such thing as an unwounded soldier," remarks Cleland. Srinivasan—whose podcast on living with PTSD recently ran on Fortnight—asks Cleland how to fight post-traumatic "psyching numbing." Cleland talks about creating a national network of Vet Centers for therapeutic intake after combat, and describes the emotional reckoning of a traumatized soldier at the healing font of Lourdes.
Part II: Soldiers & Politics
In Part II, Cleland recounts moments from the siege of Khe Sanh, Vietnam (April 8, 1968) that led to the amputations of both of his legs and right forearm at age 25. He recalls details for Srinivasan such as a medic making him a tourniquet from his weapons belt. Finally, using then-President Lyndon Johnson as an example, Cleland illustrates the disconnect between politicians, and those left to cope with the reality of combat service.
"I identify with veterans from Iraq, with veterans from Afghanistan, because they're going to look back in five or ten years and say; 'What the hell?'"
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