Quil Lawrence

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.

Lawrence started his career in radio by interviewing con men in Tangier, Morocco. He then moved to Bogota, Colombia, and covered Latin America for NPR, the BBC, and The LA Times.

In the Spring of 2000, a Pew Fellowship sponsored his first trips to Iraq — that reporting experience eventually built the foundation for his first book, Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2009).

Lawrence has reported from throughout the Arab world and from Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan for twelve years, serving as NPR's Bureau Chief in Baghdad and Kabul. He covered the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the second battle of Fallujah in 2004, as well as politics, culture, and war in both countries.

In 2012, Lawrence returned to the U.S. to cover the millions of men and women who have served at war, both recently and in past generations. NPR is possibly unique among major news organizations in dedicating a full-time correspondent to veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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.

On Aug. 14, a restaurant owner inside the Kabul airport terminal suddenly sold out his entire stock of food, as passengers flocked to the airport. Then he noticed the Afghan customs officers, airport police and other officials changing out of their uniforms and into civilian clothes. Some were looking frantically for seats on the last flights out.

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Fida started working with U.S. Special Forces in 2006. In the following decade, the Afghan interpreter worked for USAID, U.S. Marines and finally the U.S. State Department. When he spoke to NPR back in 2018, Fida asked to only be identified by his first name for security reasons.

"I am proud to have worked with such wonderful people," he said of the Americans he met over the years, "And they stand by me."

Every day of Lyla Kohistany's life, her native Afghanistan was at war. But the first time she really saw the country, she was a 25-year-old U.S. Navy intelligence officer.

"I remember the aircraft doing the whole zigging and zagging because you don't want to get hit by insurgent fire," Kohistany said of her first deployment in 2005.

Kohistany's family had left when she was a toddler, so she had no memory of the breathtaking snowy mountains that surround the Afghan capital. Their beauty moved her, but also made her realize how lucky she was to have grown up in the U.S.

A video game changed Peter Tamte's life. And forever altered his view of military service.

In the early 2000s the U.S. Marine Corps recruited the developer to help design video training programs. Tamte, who had never served, befriended a bunch of the grunts who were testing his product. Then came the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq, the heaviest urban fighting for U.S. troops since Vietnam.

Matt Lammers was completely alone the first time we met.

The cigarette butts and old ammunition cans clearly marked his apartment door. Camouflage netting blocked the Arizona sun, but it also sent a message: this guy was still in Iraq. I knocked on the door at 9 a.m. and woke him from the only hour of sleep he'd had all night.

He apologized. I apologized. And after a couple hours killing time around Tucson, I came back. Lammers rolled out his door for a smoke in a manual wheelchair, shirtless. Which saved questions — scars and ink tell his story.

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Twenty-five years in the making, a new monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opens on Veterans Day — the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

"It's an article of faith in Indian country that Native Americans serve at a greater rate than basically any other group," said Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He said the steel ring sculpture over a carved stone drum, in a wooded area near the museum's entrance, will become hallowed ground.

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A growing list of attendees to a reception last month for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett have tested positive for coronavirus.

But the next day, the annual Gold Star Mother's Day event was held indoors at the White House, and official photos from the reception show very few people wearing masks.

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Since retiring from television in 2015, comedian Jon Stewart's most prominent work has been on behalf of Sept. 11 first responders — people who got sick after working in the toxic wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York. Many credit his celebrity testimony in 2019 with pushing Congress to preserve the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation fund.

This summer the Trump administration rolled out the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) - a long awaited strategy to bring down the rate of suicide in the military and among civilians. It focuses on enlisting community partners and a public awareness campaign to fight the stigma around seeking help during a mental health crisis.

For the second time in two months, the Trump administration has sided with the for-profit college industry over a key constituency: veterans. In May, the president vetoed a bipartisan bill promoting debt forgiveness for veterans who were defrauded by for-profit schools. Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs is allowing two repeat-offending schools access to GI Bill money.

From Richmond to Seattle, cities are taking a fresh look at – and sometimes taking a sledgehammer to – statues of slave owners. U.S. military bases named for Confederate generals are under scrutiny, and the Marine Corps has banned Confederate flags. Some veterans would like to see this momentum help change the gender-exclusive motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The New York police officer accused of using a chokehold in an incident captured on video Sunday has been charged with strangulation.

The officer, 39-year-old David Afanador, was suspended the same day the cellphone video appeared to show him choking a Black man on a Queens boardwalk. Now he's been arrested and charged with felony strangulation and attempted strangulation. Afanador pleaded not guilty and was released Thursday afternoon without bail.

A New York City police officer has been suspended after apparently using a chokehold during an arrest in Rockaway, Queens. NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said the department is investigating the incident, which happened Sunday.

Cellphone video shot by a bystander shows several police struggling to subdue a Black man, including one officer who had his arm around the man's neck. One bystander shouts, "Stop choking him!"

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed what he says are the most aggressive police accountability measures in the nation, including criminalizing the use of chokeholds, following weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

Thousands of people who had planned to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C., this holiday weekend were forced to cancel this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes veterans traveling with the nonprofit network Honor Flight, which recently suspended all trips at least until this fall.

"Our veterans that travel with us are still living, so their day is Veterans Day not Memorial Day," says Honor Flight CEO Meredith Rosenbeck. "But they go to honor their friends and comrades, those who have fallen."

Macabre news of bodies stacked in a makeshift morgue. Federal emergency teams swooping in to take control of state veterans homes where the coronavirus has killed scores. For veterans, getting care in their own homes has gone from a preference to a matter of survival.

"It's definitely scary," says Rob Grier.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the country's largest health care network with 300 hospitals, clinics and nursing homes nationwide. More than 9 million American veterans get care from the VA, and today VA doctors and nurses serve on the frontlines of the pandemic crisis.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has joined other states and ordered people in New York to wear face coverings in public when they can't remain 6 feet apart, in order to protect the gains his state has made against the coronavirus.

Despite fatalities still reaching more than 700 daily, Cuomo said the outbreak has stabilized and the danger of overwhelming the health system seems to have passed. Cuomo said he would never forget all the help New York received, and he announced he'd be sending 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to Maryland.

Watching the White House briefings on the pandemic is prompting questions about the officials gathered near the podium, including: Who's that in the blue uniform with four stars on his collar?

Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D., is assistant secretary for health – not in the Navy but in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), one of the country's two unarmed services. (For extra credit: The other one is NOAA.)

New York City has drastically increased its estimate of the number of people killed by COVID-19 to include probable victims who were not tested. The new number is 10,367.

For weeks, firefighters and paramedics have been recording a massive spike in deaths at home around New York City. The deceased were presumed to be victims of the coronavirus but were never tested. Now city officials have recalculated the toll that the virus has taken and reached a staggering number — adding nearly 4,000 to the total.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will not fight with President Trump during a pandemic, appearing conciliatory after a day of rising tension between the two men.

At a news conference Monday, Trump said his "authority is total" in terms of when to open the economy. He then tweeted Tuesday that governors such as Cuomo who were starting to make their own plans about how to reopen their states are mutinous.

The Department of Veterans Affairs runs the largest health care network in the country. Nine million vets are enrolled in VA health care, and recently, the department announced it would treat all veterans who need help during this crisis.

But VA health workers say they need help. At least seven VA staff have died from the virus, and NPR has seen internal emails telling VA staff to use the same surgical mask for up to a week.

In an interview with NPR News, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said the VA stands ready to back up the nation's health care system, but has not yet been asked to deploy resources by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have been preparing for what has been coming for a while now," Wilkie said. "In war and in case of natural disaster or an epidemic, we are the surge force."

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