Specialist Steven Merkley
After they got to Afghanistan, Spec. Steven Merkley kept telling the
guys in his outfit, the 511th MPs, “Hey, this isn’t all that bad.” One
night Merkley, a tall, brooding 24-year-old from Croghan, upstate New York,
talked about being on peacekeeping patrol in Bosnia a few years ago.
“We stopped the Humvee out of concern about mines and got out and I went
forward on foot, and all of a sudden I was up to my waist in this incredible
stink. Guys helped pull me out and there was a finger stuck in my boot
lace. It was a mass grave. The top layer was all kids. Babies, too.
They eventually pulled 397 bodies out of there. I couldn’t sleep for six
months. They sent me to a Marine Corps major who was the mental health
counselor. He was no help. He said, ‘Hey, it’s war.’
“I spent a long time talking to my dad about this. He did two tours
in Vietnam. He really helped me. My dad was the only one who could really
understand it. He knew exactly. He saw a lot of bad stuff in Vietnam. He
had post-traumatic stress, real bad. He used to beat me when I was a kid.
One time I tripped over his feet and he swung around and hit me and broke
“I moved out and lived with my grandfather for a couple of weeks. That
really hit him hard. He signed himself into the VA hospital and was there
for three years in and out, getting treatment. He still sees a psychiatrist.”
After that experience, why did Merkley choose a military career?
“There are no jobs back where I come from. And my dad wanted me to go military.
So did my grandfather. It was the one thing he wanted to see before he
“He almost made it. I was with the recruiters when I got a phone call
saying, ‘Your grandfather is going.’ I raced home on the back roads in
my mom’s Dodge Charger. Six or seven minutes home. He was dead.”
Sergeant Dirk Sheffer
Sergeant George Smith
Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe
Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck
Col. Fred Hoadley
Jerry Curran, M.D.
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