Special Report: 'The Uncounted Cost'

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More than 6,000 service members have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including hundreds from Fort Drum. What's harder to see is the number of soldiers who have survived wounds that would have killed them in previous wars. 7 News reporter Caitlin Cissne begins a special series on these wounded warriors and what lies ahead. You can see "The Uncounted Cost" at 6 and 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

One look at Marine Corporal Jessie Fletcher and the cost of war is clear. 

The Marine scout sniper lost both legs in Afghanistan last year when an improvised explosive device went off.

"I found three IEDs in 10 minutes, before I found a 4th one in my legs."

The north country native isn't alone. 

He's just one of more than 50,000 service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and 1 of 1,288 service members (as of March 2012) who lost a limb.

A set of prosthetic legs is hard to ignore, but what sometimes goes unnoticed is the host of mental and emotional issues that come along with such injuries. 

As of March this year, more than 800 amputees have left the service.

The Veterans Administration says 9 out of 10 of those vets have mental disorders and 2 out of every 3 suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. 

Fletcher says he can relate.

"I had a filter that wasn't working. I would say things I wasn't supposed to say. It took me a while, but I recovered from that. Loud noises, things like that, you learn to grow," he said.

Beyond amputees, thousands of other veterans also suffer from so called invisible injuries -- 19 percent have suffered a traumatic brain injury and 20 percent have dealt with post traumatic stress. 

Seven percent suffer from both. 

For those veterans, the cost of war continues.

"Life has been normal for people in the U.S. as war is raging across the globe, so reminding people that there are costs after the war, that war doesn't end when the last troop leaves the battlefield, that's something that's important," said Ramsey Sulayman of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The good news is most wounded warriors are expected to live long, productive lives.

But they'll need help. 

In part 2 of the report, Cissne will take a look at what it will cost to care for them.

Thursday, October 2, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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