Jason Moon / NHPR

Retired General Stanley McChrystal visits New Hampshire this week. We’ll ask him about the situation in Afghanistan, where he was top commander of the international coalition, and get his take on spreading conflicts in the Middle East.  We’ll also find out about his proposal to create a year of national service for young Americans.


In her new book, author Helen Thorpe tells the tales of three female National Guard members, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Thorpe traces their stories: from their expectations joining the Guard before 9/11, to their experiences going off to war, and then troubles on the home front.


  • Helen Thorpe - journalist and author from Denver, CO. Her most recent book is "Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War."


Janet Ramsden via Flickr Creative Commons

Why is six scared of seven? Because seven, eight, nine. Jokes like this are only one example of the ways that we humans like to assign personality traits to the numbers that dictate our world. Today on Word of Mouth we explore this seemingly universal tendency to create emotional associations with numbers.  Then, is tipping culturally determined? Freakonomics investigates the nuances of tipping in the United States with the help of Cornell professor Michael Lynn. Plus, Botox is well known for freezing the faces of many a Hollywood starlet, but how about freezing out negative emotions? We hear from journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner about how Botox is being used to treat depression.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

U.S. Army

Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts of Nashua will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House today.

Pitts will be ninth living service member to receive the nation’s highest military honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Nine soldiers died and Pitts was among 27 wounded in July of 2008 in the Battle of Wanat, when hundreds of insurgents attacked an Army outpost in Afghanistan.

Despite serious injuries from shrapnel, Pitts continued to hold off enemy fighters, hurling grenades and manning a machine gun.


A New Hampshire Marine killed last month by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan will be laid to rest Saturday.

A memorial service will be held Saturday morning for Lance Corporal Brandon Garabrant at ConVal High School in Peterborough.

Garabrant was 19 years old and graduated from ConVal last year.

Following the service, he will be buried at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

Garabrant lived in Greenfield and was a volunteer member of the Temple Fire Department.

The body of a Marine killed in Afghanistan has been returned to New Hampshire.  The remains of Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant of Greenfield arrived in Manchester Saturday morning.  Police and fire officials escorted the casket to a funeral home in Peterborough while volunteers lined the procession route, holding signs showing their support.  Garabrant is one of three Marines who were killed June 20 in what the military described as a "hostile incident'' in Helmand province.

NHPR / Michael Brindley

A Nashua man who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month says the recognition does not belong to him, but to his unit, and his fellow servicemen who died in battle.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts will receive the medal during a White House ceremony next month.

He is quick to deflect any credit, and says the award is a memorial to those who have laid down their lives in battle.

A former Army staff sergeant from Nashua is becoming the latest recipient of a Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.

A Marine from New Hampshire was killed in Afghanistan on Friday.

UN Photo/ Tim Page / Flickr/CC

The results of this weekend’s elections, many say, will have enormous consequences for the country’s future - from the status of ongoing U.S. military support, to whether recent civil rights gains are maintained.  But the balloting has been marred by violence, and deep-seated concerns about fraud.


New Hampshire's elected officials joined the state's military leaders to welcome home a medevac unit that recently returned from Afghanistan.   The 169th MEDEVAC unit went to Afghanistan in September 2012. Made up of National Guard units from New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Missouri, the group became known as "Jigsaw'' to reflect the merger of different units.  The medics performed 471 lifesaving missions and carried 427 patients to higher levels of care.    Soldiers in the unit, which returned in August, earned several medals including Bronze Stars.  The ceremony was at 11 a.m.

twaffles via Flickr Creative Commons

A full decade into the drone war in the Middle East, we’re still asking questions: what does an unmanned military mean for the future of warfare?  Who chooses who lives and who dies? What does it mean to pull the trigger on a target half a world away?

And what is like being a veteran of the drone war?

Matthew Power is a freelance print and radio journalist and a contributor to GQ Magazine, where he wrote a profile of former drone operator and Airman First Class Brandon Bryant.

via Monadnock Lyceum

Drawing on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's concept of "cheap grace," Andrew Bacevich exposes the chronic defects in the current U. S. approach to waging war.  He explains why the world's most powerful military doesn't win and why the nation's reliance on professional soldiers has turned out to be such a bad bargain. When American soldiers deploy to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, what is the cause for which they fight?  The patriotic answer is this:  they fight for freedom.  Challenge that proposition and you’ll likely pick a quarrel.

We look into a Tumblr  account that lends perspective to the drone war by using Google Earth. Joining us is blogger and artist James Bridle, creator of Dronestragram.

We hear the words honor, duty and sacrifice a lot around Veteran’s Day – and rightly so. What we rarely hear about are the individual, human stories that lead men and women to pick up the mantle of those powerful words and to fight in America’s name. “Where Soldiers Come From” follows a pack of close friends from Michigan’s icy Upper Peninsula as they transform from small town teenagers to National Guardsmen fighting in Afghanistan.

Check out the trailer for Where Soldiers Come From:

Beverly & Pack via Flickr Creative Commons

When we call dogs ‘man’s best friend’, we’re typically referring to their value as companions and protectors - but canines have a long history of helping people with affairs far more solemn that playing fetch.  For centuries, dogs have played a pivotal role in aiding the disabled, in hunting, for search and rescue operations, and for their service in police and military applications.  After a long hiatus, U.S. bomb-sniffing dogs were re-introduced to the battlefield in 2007.  There are now some six-hundred military dogs deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An inside look at the war in Afghanistan. Recently, an increasing number of American troops have died at the hands of their Afghan counterparts, raising questions about American efforts there. But these incidents don’t come as a surprise to award-winning Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who spent two years covering the war in Afghanistan. He's written a book on the conflict -- Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan.

This week, NATO Cabinet ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will try to tackle the problem of Afghan security. The basic plan for bringing American troops home from Afghanistan is to let Afghan security forces fight for their own country. But there's a hitch — finding a way to pay for the Afghan army.

Granite Stater, noted international attorney and independent advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Finance, Phillip Walker, gives his forecast for the political and economic future of Afghanistan. Despite the violence, he says civil institutions are beginning to take hold and the economy is growing rapidly. But, he warns, foreign aid must continue to flow into Afghanistan after NATO withdrawal for this progress to continue.


Afghanistan faces the daunting prospect of a drastic reduction in foreign aid, which currently makes up about 90 percent of the country's revenue. Some have seen an economic life raft in geological surveys that indicate huge deposits of copper, iron, uranium and lithium in various parts of the country. But multinational mining firms have been slow to invest in Afghanistan — not least because of questions about stability after American troops draw down.

Afghans say they're so inured to civilians killed in wars that they bury their dead and move on. That's not so easy for Muhammad Wazir. He lost his mother, his wife, a sister-in-law, a brother, a nephew, his four daughters and two of his sons in last week's mass shooting in two villages.

"My little boy, Habib Shah, is the only one left alive, and I love him very much," says Wazir.

Nearly four months after Pakistan closed the main supply lines for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the shutdown is creating hardship for Pakistani truckers and is forcing the U.S. to turn to costly and less-efficient alternatives.

The Pakistani move came after an errant U.S. airstrike left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead along the Afghan frontier back in November.

The killings of some 16 civilians in Afghanistan on Sunday allegedly by a U.S. soldier are raising new questions about U.S. military strategy: whether the surge of American troops worked, and whether the U.S. troops have won over the Afghan people or alienated them.

The place where the killings happened was a "no-go zone" for American and even Afghan troops as recently as two years ago — it was Taliban country.

The image of Afghan women wearing police and army uniforms is meant to inspire pride and hope for a future where the rights of women will be protected in Afghanistan.

So why would female police officers in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif be ashamed to admit they wear the badge?

"Except my very close family members, no one really knows that I am a police officer," said one woman at a NATO training session.

At the Fort Polk military base in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the Army has created a miniature version of Afghanistan — with mock villages and American soldiers working alongside Afghan role-players.

This is the training ground for a new American approach in Afghanistan as the U.S. begins to look ahead to the goal of bringing home the U.S. forces by the end of 2014. The idea is that Afghan forces have to be good enough to defend their country against the Taliban, and to make that happen, the U.S. Army is creating small U.S. training teams at Fort Polk.

President Obama apologized in a letter and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm.

But that was not enough to keep Afghans from protesting violently for a third day following word that several copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were burned at a large NATO base outside Kabul.

The latest incident resembled other cases in recent years, where rumors that a Quran was desecrated — even thousands of miles away in Florida or Guantanamo Bay — ignited deadly riots in Afghanistan.

After a long hiatus, the Afghan and U.S. governments this week reopened talks on a strategic partnership that will determine how many American troops stay in Afghanistan past the end of the NATO mission in 2014.

Afghans Worried About Early Exit Of French Troops

Feb 8, 2012

Uncertainties surrounding the future of the NATO mission in Afghanistan are of particular concern for an area near Kabul that French troops have controlled for the past decade. France now plans to withdraw its army a year ahead of schedule, sparking fears of a potential crisis in Kapisa province.

On a plateau amid the towering Hindu Kush mountains, Hukum Khan, a 31-year-old Afghan farmer, says the presence of French troops hasn't made much difference in his life in the past 10 years.