As in every war, in Iraq and Afghanistan the wounded are far more numerous than those killed. Common combat injuries include second and third degree burns, broken bones, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, paralysis, loss of sight and hearing, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and limb loss.
The true count of Americans injured or sickened in the war is exponentially larger than the figures given on the official Department of Defense (DOD) casualty website. That official total includes only those “wounded in action.”
Not included are those suffering what are categorized as “non-hostile injuries” and other medical problems arising in theater, such as heat stroke, suicide attempts, respiratory problems, and vehicle crashes.
Other problems are not diagnosed until the injured return home. Toxic dust exposure and resulting respiratory, cardiac, and neurological disease represent another large segment of war zone-induced illness that has yet to be fully recognized.
Traumatic brain injury and PTSD are also major issues among returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. High rates of PTSD among US veterans are alarming, but new evidence also suggests that military mental health providers use PTSD diagnoses to help returning soldiers receive assistance with a variety of problems they face reintegrating into their families and communities: joblessness and drug addictions among them.
All of this makes it difficult to estimate the number of those US service members injured in the wars.
(Page updated as of February 2015)