Quil Lawrence

David Aquila ("Quil") Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

Previously, Lawrence served as NPR's Bureau Chief in Kabul. He joined NPR in 2009 as Baghdad Bureau Chief – capping off ten years of reporting in Iraq and all the bordering countries. That experience made the foundation for his first book Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, published in 2008.

Before coming to NPR, Lawrence was based in Jerusalem, as Middle East correspondent for The World, a BBC/PRI co-production. For the BBC he covered the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 and returned to Afghanistan periodically to report on development, the drug trade and insurgency.

Lawrence began his career as a freelancer for NPR and various newspapers while based in Bogota, Colombia, covering Latin America. Other reporting trips took him to Sudan, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan and Iran.

A native of Maine, Lawrence studied history at Brandeis University, with concentrations in the Middle East and Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Arabic.

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U.S.
3:35 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Veterans Voices Multitracked, Overdubbed, Amplified Through An Actor

BASETRACK Live incorporates photographs, videos and interviews to tell the story of warfare, both at home and abroad.
Courtesy of En Garde Arts

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 8:16 am

Basetrack began as a place for embedded journalists to post photos. Later it became a social media site where families could keep up with their troops in Afghanistan. Now it has transformed again, into a new way for the most recent generation of veterans to tell the story of their service and survival.

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Shots - Health News
3:21 am
Mon October 13, 2014

A Benefit For Rural Vets: Getting Health Care Close To Home

For some rural vets who live far from a VA hospital, getting medical care has meant driving a day or two from home, and missing work.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 7:12 pm

Army veteran Randy Michaud had to make a 200-mile trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Aroostook County, Maine, near the Canadian border, every time he had a medical appointment.

Michaud, who was medically retired after a jeep accident in Germany 25 years ago, moved home to Maine in 1991. He was eligible for VA medical care, but the long drive was a problem.

He's one of millions of veterans living in rural America who must travel hundreds of miles round-trip for care.

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Around the Nation
10:38 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Homeless Vets: They're Not Just Single Men Anymore

Alexander Morales, who served in the Army in the 1970s, with his family: wife Roberta; Elvia, 7, Elena, 8, and Elvira, 7 (in front), and Ruben Verdugo, 13, and Aaron D. Huerta, 17 (in back). Morales' family has been going for years to the Stand Down event in San Diego, where veterans receive assistance.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 4:49 pm

Every summer for 27 years, a small tent city has popped up in San Diego. "Stand Down" is a three-day oasis for homeless veterans, with showers, new clothes, hot meals, medical help, legal aid and a booth set up for every housing program in the city.

Increasingly, the event needs ways to keep children entertained.

"They've got the kids zone and everything. My kids live out here very happy. They're looking forward to it from last year," says Alex Morales, who served in the Army in the 1970s.

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News
5:37 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

VA's Inspector General Finds Faked Data At Hospitals Across U.S.

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 8:07 pm

President Obama addressed the annual convention of the American Legion in North Carolina with a raft of new proposals for vets. The speech comes as the inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department is releasing a report on the scandal over phony wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital.

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National Security
2:33 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

First Rule Of This Fight Club: You Must Be A Veteran

Vance, who serves as a coach, founded the group after his own struggle with PTSD. He says it helped him get out of a dark place. He now has a degree in social work.
David Gilkey/NPR

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 8:09 pm

About a dozen military veterans have locked themselves inside a caged boxing ring, in a rough part of San Diego, and they're starting to throw punches. It's therapeutic, they say.

"A lot of people say, 'You guys are punching each other in the face. How is that helpful?' " says Aaron Espinoza, a former Marine. "But it's a respect thing, it's mutual. I have to push him, he has to push me to get better."

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Politics
4:25 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

After 5 Weeks Of Haggling, Congress Inks Bipartisan VA Bill

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 7:40 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Health
5:59 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Veterans Kick The Prescription Pill Habit, Against Doctors' Orders

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 6:28 am

For many people with post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping can return you to the worst place you've ever been, at the worst possible moment.

"I always see his face," says Will, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army. "And in my dreams it's the same thing. ... I always walk over to him, and instead of this Afghani kid that's laying there, it's my little brother."

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Shots - Health News
5:39 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

A Growing Number Of Veterans Struggles To Quit Powerful Painkillers

Bryan McDonel and his father, Mike, both served multiple tours in Iraq with the National Guard. Bryan was first prescribed painkillers before his deployment, and his dependence on medication prompted a downward spiral.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 7:20 pm

There are antlers everywhere on the walls of Bryan and Mike McDonel's place near Pine Bluff, Ark. The house is hardly big enough for all their hunting trophies. Both are good shots with their hunting bows; Bryan and Mike, his father, served in the Arkansas National Guard and deployed together to Iraq, twice.

The McDonel family has served in the military for generations. But Bryan, 35, is out of the service now. He is one of thousands of troops and veterans who struggle with addiction to prescription drugs.

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National Security
4:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Obama Taps Former Procter & Gamble Chief To Helm VA

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 7:01 pm

President Obama has picked Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald will face a difficult task. The VA is is embroiled in a controversy over falsified and lengthy wait times for veterans.

Parallels
2:07 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

How The Kurds Could Benefit From Iraq's Crisis

The Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have remained peaceful despite the recent surge in fighting. Here, a member of the Kurdish peshmerga forces directs traffic at a checkpoint in Kalak, in northern Iraq.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 3:01 pm

The current crisis in Iraq has focused on the Sunni-Shiite conflict, but relatively little has been heard from the other major ethnic group in Iraq, the Kurds. And that's just the way the Kurds would like it.

The Kurds have been seeking an independent state for a century but have been stymied at every turn. As the Shiites and the Sunnis slug it out, the Kurds are demonstrating, so far at least, that they can maintain peace and stability in their semi-autonomous region in the northeastern part of the country.

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Politics
5:12 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Senate Version Adds Costs To VA Overhaul Measure

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 9:39 am

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure is close enough to a version already passed by the House that it could reach the president's desk soon.

Politics
5:10 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

In A Rare Act Of Bipartisan Speed, Senate Passes VA Reforms

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:24 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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National Security
3:29 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

With More Veterans Needing Health Care, What Will The Cost Be?

Sloan Gibson, acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, spoke in Phoenix last week. After a visit to a VA hospital, he said additional resources were likely needed in the area. Nationwide, the number of veterans seeking health care has risen dramatically in recent years.
Matt York AP

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:31 pm

A new generation of American vets is home from war — about 2.6 million of them. And there are about 10 million older veterans, many from the Vietnam era, hitting their 60s, 70s or 80s. Taking care of both groups is getting expensive.

"If they can afford to pay for wars, they can afford to pay for the treatment after the wars," says Garry Augustine, with Disabled American Veterans. DAV and other private veterans' organizations draw up their own "independent budget" for the Department of Veterans Affairs every year.

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News
4:06 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Audit Reveals Vast Scale Of VA Waitlist Issues

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 6:42 pm

Before former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down, he ordered an audit of the VA system, hoping to find how many hospitals were lying about wait times. The audit found that approximately 100,000 veterans are waiting too long for care at the VA.

Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

VA Health Care's Chronic Ailments: Long Waits And Red Tape

Soldiers returning from the Pacific wave from the deck of the USS General Mitchell on Dec. 11, 1945. Much of the health care demand in the VA system is from veterans of earlier wars.
AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 5:40 pm

More than 2.5 million veterans served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they qualify for health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. These recent vets have been putting in for more service-related conditions than previous generations, for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury to the bad knees, bad backs and bad hearing that nearly every new vet seems to have.

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Shots - Health News
5:45 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Can Civilian Health Care Help Fix The VA? Congress Weighs In

Sen. John McCain discussed the Veterans Choice Act at a news conference on Tuesday, with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 8:03 pm

Veterans across the country are still waiting too long for medical care, a situation that drove the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last week.

Now Republicans and Democrats in Congress are competing to pass laws they think will fix the problem of medical wait times and other problems at the VA. The discussion over how to reform veterans' health care is starting to sound familiar.

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News
4:47 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Shinseki's Apology Punctuates A Long Career Of Service

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 7:07 pm

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized for lengthy waits at VA facilities, saying he's ousting the leaders of a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., after stories about delays in care there. Shinseki's decision to resign marks a muddy end to an illustrious career, which began when he joined the Army nearly five decades ago.

U.S.
11:57 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Resigns

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 12:36 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Good morning, let's hear more now about the resignation of Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. President Obama says he accepted that resignation a short time ago at the White House. He had just finished making a statement after the two men held a short private meeting. The President Shinseki's resignation has been accepted partly for political reasons, in that he says it would be politically difficult for Shinseki to focus on the questions at hand for the VA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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U.S.
11:18 am
Fri May 30, 2014

VA Secretary Apologizes For 'Indefensible' Treatment Delays

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 12:36 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Eric Shinseki, the embattled secretary of Veterans Affairs, meets this hour with President Obama at the White House. Now, earlier today, Shinseki spoke at a conference on homeless veterans, and addressed what he called the elephant in the room. The issue of VA clinics lying about how quickly they were seeing patients.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

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News
4:06 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Report Finds Systemic Problems With VA Wait Lists

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 6:17 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A systemic problem nationwide - that's how the Inspector General for Veterans Affairs has described the problem of falsified wait times at VA medical centers. At one facility in Phoenix, veterans waited on average 115 days for an appointment.

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The Impact of War
4:38 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

On Hill, VA Chief Shinseki Faces Hospital Death Allegations

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki faced tough questions from senators today. They wanted to know about allegations that VA clinics are cooking the books claiming they see patients within 14 days, when in reality veterans can wait months for an appointment. And there was something else senators raised with the secretary: Whether he should take responsibility for the troubles and resign. Here's NPR's Quil Lawrence.

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News
5:34 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

American Legion Calls For VA Secretary's Resignation

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 1:34 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The country's largest veteran's organization wants the secretary of Veterans Affairs to resign. The American Legion hasn't targeted a public official this way since 1941. And in the past, they've supported VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. But now, there are allegations that dozens of veterans died waiting for health care. And VA hospitals are accused of fixing the stats. The VA is investigating.

As NPR's Quil Lawrence reports, even its defenders say the department had better have some answers soon.

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News
4:03 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

After A Long Wait, 24 Models In Heroism Get Their Due

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 4:50 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

On today's program, in interviews and stories from NPR reporters, we're following events in Crimea, as well as the continuing search for Malaysian Air Flight 370.

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The Edge
5:06 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Military Training Gives U.S. Paralympic Biathletes An Edge

Andy Soule, a U.S. Army veteran, lost both his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2005. Four years ago, he won America's first medal — Olympic or Paralympic — in the biathlon event.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:39 pm

Biathlon may be the toughest endurance sport in the Olympics. After grueling circuits of Nordic skiing, athletes have to calm their breathing, steady their tired legs and shoot tiny targets with a rifle.

Andy Soule does it all with only his arms.

"It's a steep learning curve, learning to sit-ski," says Soule, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team. He's strapped into a seat attached to two fixed cross-country skis. He speeds along the course by hauling himself with ski poles.

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The Edge
3:15 am
Fri March 7, 2014

From War In The Desert To 'Murder Ball On Ice'

Former Marine Josh Sweeney lost both of his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2009. He's competing with the U.S. Men's Sled Hockey team at the Paralympics in Sochi.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sat March 8, 2014 12:18 pm

It might not exactly be doctor's orders, but it made perfect sense to Josh Sweeney.

"If you hit somebody, you feel a lot better," he says, making his way off the ice from a grueling practice with the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team — a sport also known as "murder ball on ice."

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News
4:05 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Among Soldiers, Risk Of Suicide May Have Surprising Roots

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 6:31 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

For years, people in the military had a lower rate of suicide than their civilian counterparts. About 10 years ago that started to change and now the rate is worse for soldiers than civilians. That prompted the largest-ever study of suicide among soldiers, in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. The study is on-going, but three initial articles have been published.

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Law
4:29 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Yale Law Students Raise Case For Discharged Vets

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 7:19 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the U.S., posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD has become part of our national vocabulary. During the Vietnam War, though, it wasn't yet a medical diagnosis, nor was it accepted as an explanation for erratic behavior. Today, a number of Vietnam veterans filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the tens of thousands of Vietnam vets they say got kicked out of the military because of problems related to PTSD.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports their suit aims to get these veterans the benefits they missed out on for decades.

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Iraq
5:39 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Fallujah Veterans Ask Hard Questions About Their Sacrifices

A U.S. Army soldier guards the remains of a burned-out military ammunition truck after it was attacked in Fallujah, Iraq, on Oct. 19, 2003. Fallujah and its surrounds were the site of some of the bloodiest fighting for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.
Khalid Mohammed AP

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 9:17 am

Will Walsh got to know the Iraqi city of Fallujah while running across its bridges in the middle of the night, under fire, looking for IEDs. That was nearly 10 years ago.

Last weekend, the former Army captain heard the news that Fallujah had fallen, again, to al-Qaida-linked groups.

"The question I have to ask myself is was that effort in vain?" he says now. "Was all the work that we did, all the sacrifice that we had, what is the benefit?"

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Around the Nation
3:01 am
Mon January 6, 2014

An Honorable Last Wish For A Dying Marine

Hal Faulkner (left), 79, receives his new papers from two Marines after having his military status changed to "honorable discharge" at a recent ceremony. Faulkner was kicked out of the Marine Corps in 1956 for being gay.
Courtesy of Phil Latzman

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 8:03 am

Hal Faulkner is 79 years old and he's already lived months longer than his doctors predicted.

"I don't know what to say, it's just incredible that I'm still here," Faulkner says in a halting voice made gruff by age and cancer.

Faulkner joined the Marines in 1953, and served in the Philippines. In 1956, he got kicked out with an "undesirable discharge" for being gay. His military papers said "homosexual" on them, quite an obstacle in the 1950s.

Still, Faulkner moved on, and had a successful career in sales.

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U.S.
5:12 am
Tue December 10, 2013

For Veterans, 'Bad Paper' Is A Catch-22 For Treatment

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 11:20 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In many ways, military veterans hold a privileged place in American society, but not all vets have access to what goes along with that privilege. In the past decade of war, more than 100,000 men and women left the military with less than honorable discharges, many due to bad conduct related to post traumatic stress disorder. Once they're kicked out of the military, they lose access to benefits like treatment for PTSD.

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