What happened at the Boston Marathon was inconceivable, horrific, shocking to most who have seen the videos and photos, but there are lots of Americans for whom the scene was appallingly familiar: veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I spoke to five men who served with my husband in the infantry. All of them went to Iraq at least once between 2006 and 2009 and are now scattered across the country, integrating into civilian life, more or less. They're my friends.
It wasn't like seeing the Iraq war break out on the Boston streets, they said, but they found their experiences rushing back while watching the news as they tried to figure out what kind of bomb it might have been. Because, for a year or more of their adult lives, what happened on Monday was a regular experience. Some worried the attack could become another pretense for war. Some tried to stifle a feeling that Americans don't care about the people overseas who are blown up all the time.
On Monday, T.J. Brummett came home from his construction job in Indiana and flipped on the TV just a few minutes after the explosion. He knew immediately it wasn't an accident. Brummett was an Army specialist deployed to Baghdad in 2006 and 2007, and for a few months, he was a driver for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, or EOD, the guys who blow up bombs -- you probably saw them in The Hurt Locker. He was on call 24 hours a day, and "when someone was blown up, it was my job to get them there."