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Hidden Casualties Overview

Thousands of injured and ill soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are not being counted in the Pentagon's official tally of the wounded because they are considered "non-hostile" casualties. Some say that if they were included, it would triple the total casualty count. The Pentagon claims that until NOW's request, it hadn't been asked for those numbers. But, critics say these often debilitating injuries are not being reported in order to keep Americans from getting a clear picture of the human cost of war. NOW's Michele Mitchell profiles some of these soldiers who may spend the rest of their lives scarred and disabled, but whose sacrifices are not being counted by the nation they served.

Some watchdog groups suggest that even the combat casualty numbers for Operation Iraqi Freedom released by the Department of Defense are not fully accurate. Journalists like those at NOW have had a hard time tracking down numbers for non-combat wounded. Indeed, the detailed wounded "Military Wounded in Action" reports released by the Department of Defense Directorate of Information Operations have a section labeled for non-hostile casualties which has been left blank. (See the report for Operation Iraqi Freedom since May 1, 2004, PDF)

Non-combat deaths have been counted by federal government for many of America's wars. In some instances, non-combat fatalities far outstripped combat deaths. For example, in the chaos of the American Civil war, 184,594 died on both sides from combat, 373,458 additional people lost their lives to disease, malnutrition and accident. In the Mexican-American War fully ten times as many soldiers died of non-combat causes, mostly disease, as died in battle. In the first Gulf War, battle deaths were only 148, non-battle deaths in the war theater reached 235 and non-battle non-theater deaths totalled 914. As figures for wounded historically outstrip those killed, some say the missing non-combat wounded numbers may indeed be much higher than the casuality totals now tracked.

America's Heroes
The non-profit organization America's Heroes of Freedom has been meeting urgent needs of wounded Marines returning via Medivac from Iraq to Bethesda Naval Hospital since January 2004. The groups supplies care package to soldiers. The organization also assists and honors civil servants, EMS (Emergency Medical Services, e.g. Fire, Police, Rescue), physicians, nurses, and other volunteers.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Formed in 1920 and chartered by Congress in 1932, the million-member DAV is the official voice of America's service-connected disabled veterans and now represents America's 2.1 million disabled veterans, their families and survivors. The DAV offers a nationwide network of services free of charge to all veterans and members of their families. This work is totally supported by membership dues and contributions from the American public. Not a government agency, the DAV's national organization receives no government funds.

Department of Defense
The Department of Defense's official Web site publishes daily casualty reports. The site also provides official news reports from the Iraq and Afghan operations and issues a daily press release.

Department of Defense Military Casualty Information
These reports, from the Department of Defense Directorate of Information Operations and Reports, cover wars from the Korean Conflict through Operation Iraqi Freedom. The reports for the Iraq conflict are released less frequently that those on the main Department of Defense site (see above) but are much more detailed, breaking death and wounded figures down by race, gender, rank and age.

The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC)
Founded in 1995 and based at the office of the Vietnam Veterans of America in Washington, DC, the NGWRC is non-profit, international coalition of advocates and organizations providing a resource for information, support, and referrals for all those concerned with the complexities of Persian Gulf War issues. The NGWRC is especially concerned in advocating for veterans with Gulf War illnesses and those held prisoner or missing in action.

America's Wars
The Department of Veteran's Affairs list the best obtainable numbers on battle and non-battle deaths and wounded for all America's wars from the Revolution though the Gulf War. At the bottom of the page the DOV estimates the rapidly decreasing number of living World War II veterans.

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