War Anniversary: Counting Up Civilian Army Toll

Todd Drobnick, 35, of Everett, was a Gulf War I vetern but died in Gulf War II - Iraq - as a civilian. He was killed in a head-on crash Nov. 22, 2003, near Mosul, working as an interpreter on security and intelligence assignments for U.S. defense contractor Titan Corp. In a flag-draped casket, he received full military honors at an Everett funeral. Drobnick (right) wasn't an official casualty of war. But ProPublica, the investigative reporting website, is trying to make his death and those of other civilian contractors count. In a continuing series of reports called Disposable Army, the web site has determined 1,584 civilian contractors have died and 35,449 have been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones.

Injured civilian workers, though they have taxpayer-funded insurance, are routinely denied care, ProPublica reports, while the insurers - primarily American International Group (AIG, the firm taxpayers bailed out for $85 billion) - record hundreds of millions of dollars in profits on the policies. The latest case profiled is that of Oregon Vietnam vet and Iraq contractor Reggie Lane, his damaged brain confining him to a nursing home. He grunts, he blinks, but no longer speaks. It's a reminder of the widespread toll of wars that began eight years ago today.

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