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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: This is Veterans Day 15 years into the war in Afghanistan. Though it is now the longest war in American history, it's one that few Americans have experienced firsthand. That makes for a growing gap between military families and other Americans. To bridge that gap, singer-songwriter Becky Warren put the experiences that she knows well into a new album. She talked about it with NPR's Quil Lawrence. QUIL LAWRENCE,...

Thirteen years ago, just as the United States began what was to become its longest war, a futuristic wheelchair hit the market. The iBOT allowed paralyzed people, including many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, to stand up by rising to eye level. It also did something no wheelchair ever had: climb stairs. But even though users loved it, the iBOT went out of production in 2009 when Johnson & Johnson discontinued it. "I was very disappointed," says disabled veteran Gary Linfoot, a former Army...

Four years ago, Jason Brezler sent an urgent message to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, warning him about a threat. The warning wasn't heeded, and two weeks later, three U.S. troops were dead. Now the Marine Corps is trying to kick out Maj. Brezler because the warning used classified information. Solving a problem Jason Brezler never thought he'd make a career out of the Marine Corps — his family history was FDNY. "My grandfather was a firefighter, my father was a...

Stephen Coning, a 26-year-old former Marine, took his own life this summer, leaving behind a wife and a 2-year-old son. By chance, it was the same week the Department of Veterans Affairs released conclusive data showing that the rate of suicide for those who served is now much higher than for civilians. Despite that connection, the VA does not presume all suicides to be "service connected." Sounds like red tape — but that means Coning's family has so far received little formal support from...

Donald Trump picked a military town — Virginia Beach, Va. — to give a speech Monday on how he would go about overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected. He blamed the Obama administration for a string of scandals at the VA during the past two years, and claimed that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has downplayed the problems and won't fix them. Trump outlined 10 ways he would change the department. In addition to creating a direct hotline to the White House for veterans having...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. DAVID GREENE, HOST: Providing health care to veterans has seemed like a challenge for years now. One idea for how to fix this - shift away from a government program to a private one. It's an ideological fight much like the one over the Affordable Care Act - a debate over the preferred role of government. And yesterday, a government commission delivered a report to the White House on the way forward on health care for veterans. Here's...

When clinical psychiatrist Cher Morrow-Bradley and other health care providers call the Veterans Choice program, they are greeted with a recorded, 90-second "thank you" from Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. It's not having the intended effect. "Why don't you make this easier? The process is so cumbersome, and I have to listen to you thanking me for spending all this time and then I get put on hold," says Morrow-Bradley, adding that she hasn't figured out how to skip the message. She...

In 2009, Emily Vorland went to Iraq with the Army for a year, hoping it would lead to a career in special operations. That dream was derailed not by the enemy, but by a superior officer, who started sexually harassing her . "I said no and then reported it. And my direct chain of command relieved him of his position. However, it was three months later when the retaliation started," she says. She says that's when the investigation started to focus on her. It came down to a threat of perjury...

NPR — together with member stations from across the country — has been reporting on troubles with the Veterans Choice program, a $10 billion plan created by Congress two years ago to squash long wait times veterans were encountering when going to see a doctor. But as we reported in March, this fix needs a fix . Around the nation, our joint reporting project — called Back at Base — has found examples of these problems. Emily Siner of Nashville Public Radio reported on troubles with...

Many veterans are still waiting to see a doctor. Two years ago, vets were waiting a long time for care at Veterans Affairs clinics across the country. At one facility in Phoenix, for example, veterans waited an average of 115 days for an appointment. Adding insult to injury, some VA schedulers were told to falsify data to make it look like the waits weren't that bad. The whole scandal ended up forcing the resignation of Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs...

Stacy Bannerman didn't recognize her husband after he returned from his second tour in Iraq. "The man I had married was not the man that came back from war," she says. Bannerman's husband, a former National Guardsman, had been in combat and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He behaved in ways she had never expected, and one day, he tried to strangle her. "I had been with this man for 11 years at that point, and there had never been anything like this before," Bannerman said....

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The fix is broken. Two years ago Congress created the Veterans Choice Program after scandals revealed that some veterans were waiting months to get essential medical care. The $10 billion program was designed to get veterans care quickly by letting them choose a doctor outside the VA system. Now Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are pushing through new legislation to fix the program. Irvin Bishop Small served in the Navy for 10 years. Like most VA patients, he doesn't have...

Midway through Matt Keil's second deployment in Iraq, he came home and married his fiancee, Tracy, in 2007. He had two weeks R no time for a honeymoon. Before he went back to war the couple had the sort of conversation unique to newlyweds in the military. "I told her if you get a phone call that I'm injured, I'm probably fine," Matt says. "But if they come to the apartment or to your work in person, then I'm dead." Six weeks later the news came — a phone call, thankfully. Matt had been shot...

During World War II, thousands of Americans lied about their age to enlist in the military. During the Iraq war, Daniel Torres lied about something else. "I didn't want to be just another Mexican living in the U.S. I wanted to say I'd done something for the country," said Torres. Torres' parents came to the U.S. legally, but overstayed their visas — leaving him without a green card. But in 2007, with the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan peaking, a Marine Corps recruiter in Idaho was happy...

The number of military veterans in the country's jails and prisons continues to drop, a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows. It's the first government report that includes significant numbers of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the findings defy stereotypes that returning war veterans are prone to crime. The data show that veterans are less likely to be behind bars than nonveterans. The study tracked an estimated 181,500 incarcerated veterans in 2011-2012,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's been a rough week for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Congress subpoenaed officials who allegedly scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the VA in relocation fees. Then the VA had trouble explaining why so many of its staff were on paid leave last year. And the department may even have a problem distinguishing which veterans on its rolls are alive or dead, as NPR's Quil Lawrence...

At the county court in Waukesha, Wis., in September, Iraq veteran David Carlson sat before a judge hoping he hadn't run out of second chances. The judge read out his record: drugs, drunken driving, stealing booze while on parole, battery while in prison. Then the judge listed an almost equal number of previous opportunities he'd had at treatment or early release. Carlson faced as much as six more years on lockdown — or the judge could give him time served and release him to a veterans...

After his son died fighting in Afghanistan, Phil Schmidt became a walking memorial. "At the age of 52, I got my first tattoo. So I've got a total of five of em, and I'm not done," says Schmidt, who lives in New Mexico. Schmidt has tattoos of his son Jonathan's face, and of his son's medals, and the date that he fell in combat, Sept. 1 , 2012. Jonathan Schmidt should have been coming home from Afghanistan that month. Instead two Army officers arrived at Schmidt's home bearing the news that...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Tomorrow in Chicago, triathletes will swim Lake Michigan, then bike across the city of Chicago, and then sprint along the lake shore. I'm tired already. The winners will make the USA triathlon team for next summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And for the first time, the triathlon will be part of the Paralympics in Rio. It's taken years to get this done. NPR's Quil Lawrence went out training with one...

In 2009, then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that all homeless veterans would have housing by year's end. New Orleans has made huge strides towards ending veteran homelessness in the city. (This story first aired on August 4, 2015 on All Things Considered. ) Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARUN RATH, HOST: Often the focus of campaign rhetoric and political reporting is broken promises. Well, here's one promise that...

This is a tale of two cities. In New Orleans, there are signs of hope that veteran homelessness can be solved. But Los Angeles presents a very different picture. Under the deafening highway noise of the Pontchartrain Expressway in central city New Orleans, Ronald Engberson, 54, beds down for the night. Engberson got out of the Marines in 1979, plagued even back then by problems with drugs and alcohol. He says that's mostly the reason...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: When President Obama honored the five service members killed in Chattanooga, he was speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Pittsburgh. It was a wide-ranging speech in which the president also urged Congress to increase the Veterans Affairs budget. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports. QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: President Obama ran through his achievements campaign-style, from killing al-Qaida...

A decade ago, plans were drawn up for a huge Veterans Affairs hospital near Denver intended to replace old and crowded facilities for nearly 400,000 vets in Colorado and neighboring states. The original budget was $328 million, but that was totally unrealistic, the VA now acknowledges. So how much did it finally cost? Well, it's still not finished and the price has hit an eye-popping $1.7 billion, making it one of the most expensive hospitals in the world according to some accounts. "We've...

Brittany Bentz was 16 years old in 2012, living near Edwards Air Force Base in California. She went to the same martial arts studio as a family friend, who was 25 and in the Air Force. "He was like a brother so I felt comfortable talking with him, hanging out with him," Bentz says. It's NPR policy to name plaintiffs in sexual assault cases only if they want to tell their story — and Bentz does. According to her testimony at trial, Bentz says she needed a ride to martial arts class on March 7,...

President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visit the veterans hospital in Phoenix Friday to announce a new outside advisory committee to help the VA with customer service. A scandal last year at the Phoenix facility led to revelations of long wait times for veterans throughout the VA medical system. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Half of the men who die every day in the U.S. are veterans. That's according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it's not as shocking as it sounds. Millions of Americans who served in World War II and in Korea are now in their 80s and 90s. Vietnam veterans are now reaching their 70s. As a result the VA is spending a lot more on what's called end-of-life care. As NPR's Quil Lawrence reports, the...

Ask Americans if someone in their family served in the military, and the answer is probably no. After all, fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve these days. But ask if one of their grandfathers served, and you'll likely get a different answer. Between World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, millions of men were drafted into service — and both men and women volunteered. Now, that generation of veterans is getting older. And as many of them near the end of their lives, aging into...

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the first of a three-part series about veteran benefits ( Part 2 / Part 3 ).
If you're a veteran and rely on benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where you live may have an effect on whether you receive the benefits you've earned. NPR, together with member stations WBUR,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: No one disputes that Andrew Brannan murdered Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller in 1998. A police dashboard video chronicled the entire scene. But Brennan's lawyers say that the Vietnam War veteran was mentally ill and suffering a flashback from combat when he killed the deputy. They hope that that will be enough to get Brannan's death sentence commuted before next Tuesday, when Brannan is scheduled to die...

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