The number of American troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan totaled 6,656 as of February 2013. Those individuals came from every part of the United States and its territories, and the great majority were young men, of course. Many were married, with children, and all left families with a lifetime of pain.
They died in a host of horrific ways. They were killed by insurgents’ deadly targeting or mangled in the dangerous equipment with which they worked. The causes of death include hostile rocket-propelled grenade fire and the improvised explosive devices that have been responsible for roughly half of all deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their deaths were also the result of truck rollovers and other vehicle crashes, electrocutions, heatstroke deaths, friendly fire, and suicides in theater.
Official Pentagon numbers recognize only some of the war dead, however. Uncounted are the many troops who return home and kill themselves as a result of war wounds such as PTSD. The military does not report suicides among non-active duty reservists, and the Department of Veterans Affairs still does not report suicides among all veterans, resulting in dramatic underreporting of the scale of the problem.
While the mortally wounded US soldier is the “gold standard” of war deaths for many Americans, the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced fatalities among large and unrecognized numbers of private contract workers. In late 2012, the 110,000 DoD contractors in Afghanistan outnumber the uniformed US troops there. While contractors have been killed in large numbers, a full and accurate accounting has not yet been done by the Pentagon. At minimum, approximately 3,000 contractors working for the US have been killed in the two war zones; the true number is likely much larger. This is the consequence of the fact that the majority of US contractors are the citizens of other countries, many of whom appear not to have had their deaths or injuries reported. (Page updated as of March 2013)
IMAGE on Iraq anniversary page: Corporal Eric Skoog observes a moment of silence at a remembrance service in Killeen, Texas on November 5, 2010. (Ben Sklar/Getty Images)
 “Scores of recent Texas war veterans have died of overdoses, suicide and vehicle crashes, investigation finds.” American-Statesman, (September 29, 2012), http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-military/texas-war-veteran-deaths-studied/nSPJs/.
 Tina Rosenberg, “For Veterans, a Surge of New Treatments for Trauma.” New York Times Opinionator, (September 26, 2012), http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/for-veterans-a-surge-of-new-treatments-for-trauma/