Iraq was one of America’s longest wars. Thousands were killed and more than 1.5 million served. With the war now over and veterans returning home, there are countless stories to be told of how they are getting back to civilian life.
Society has always had a challenge reintegrating soldiers. The challenges are never more present than with Iraq veterans. Many of them served numerous tours and those repeated returns to the battlefront are complicating their ability to integrate into society. Mix that with a bad economy and an American public not as engaged in this war as they were in Vietnam or certainly World War II.
We’ve all been certainly covering the war since it began. Now that it’s over, it’s time to sharpen our focus. We’re mindful that we remain at war in Afghanistan and there will certainly be some troops who serve in both theaters. But the end of the Iraq war means there are big stories to be told about veterans and their impact on the wider society. We need to look at their health care, the economic toll on their lives, education and more.
We’re calling it Coming Home. And it’s this year’s AP-APME initiative.
The aim is to produce essential stories across all formats to answering one central question: What happens now that so many of them are back home for good? And how does the veteran of the Iraq conflict foretell the future of those serving in Afghanistan? How does what happens to Iraq veterans compare with veterans of previous wars?
We have assembled a team of editors and reporters organized along specific beats: education, health and science, economy and employment/benefits, culture and entertainment, and families and communities.
These beats will involve multiple formats and bureaus across the United States.
We consider this an opportunity to bring the best of the AP cooperative to bear. Many AP members already are covering these stories and we need to tap into our collective resources to tell these stories at both the big picture, 30,000-foot view as well as the local level.
Are there investigative pieces to be told that have natural local angles? And is there state coverage that tells a bigger, national story of how these veterans are re-entering society?
This will be an opportunity, like the Broken Budgets project, to stamp the AP-APME brand on a topic that will help define a generation. More than 2 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan so far. Add in their families, friends, employers, neighbors, and that’s a substantial part of the U.S. population now trying to fit in with those who did not serve.
We believe AP and its members can benefit by combining forces in developing story ideas and then producing them. For starters, we would like your ideas of stories to pursue. You may send story ideas for this initiative to firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to your local news bureau.
Lisa Marie Pane is the Associated Press’ South Region Editor. She is overseeing the Coming Home initiative.