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,...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Less than 1 percent of American families include a veteran. Those who did serve feel like they are constantly being asked to explain the past 15 years of war, and some of those vets are now doing that through fiction. NPR's Quil Lawrence spoke to several new authors who are trying to find the balance between being spokespeople for their wars and simply writing good novels. QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: For the majority of...

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...

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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...

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...

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 has been kept....

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 he's been homeless the past 10 years. "My longest stretch...

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, Lakeshore Public Radio...

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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Basetrack began as a place for embedded journalists to post photos. Later it became a social media site where families could keep up with their troops in Afghanistan. Now it has transformed again, into a new way for the most recent generation of veterans to tell the story of their service and survival. Run the site past a composer from Juilliard, add a combat vet-turned-actor, a string section and a DJ, and you get BASETRACK Live . "Not so much a play or a concert or art gallery," says Ed...

Army veteran Randy Michaud had to make a 200-mile trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Aroostook County, Maine, near the Canadian border, every time he had a medical appointment. Michaud, who was medically retired after a jeep accident in Germany 25 years ago, moved home to Maine in 1991. He was eligible for VA medical care, but the long drive was a problem. He's one of millions of veterans living in rural America who must travel hundreds of miles round-trip for care. "If I get an...

Every summer for 27 years, a small tent city has popped up in San Diego. "Stand Down" is a three-day oasis for homeless veterans, with showers, new clothes, hot meals, medical help, legal aid and a booth set up for every housing program in the city. Increasingly, the event needs ways to keep children entertained. "They've got the kids zone and everything. My kids live out here very happy. They're looking forward to it from last year," says Alex Morales, who served in the Army in the 1970s....

President Obama addressed the annual convention of the American Legion in North Carolina with a raft of new proposals for vets. The speech comes as the inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department is releasing a report on the scandal over phony wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital. Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: There's a new development today in the scandal over wait times of Veterans Affairs health centers. The VA's...

About a dozen military veterans have locked themselves inside a caged boxing ring, in a rough part of San Diego, and they're starting to throw punches. It's therapeutic, they say. "A lot of people say, 'You guys are punching each other in the face. How is that helpful?' " says Aaron Espinoza, a former Marine. "But it's a respect thing, it's mutual. I have to push him, he has to push me to get better." Espinoza is a regular at P.O.W., which stands for Pugilistic Offensive Warrior, a mixed...

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For many people with post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping can return you to the worst place you've ever been, at the worst possible moment. "I always see his face," says Will, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army. "And in my dreams it's the same thing. ... I always walk over to him, and instead of this Afghani kid that's laying there, it's my little brother." The memory that triggers Will's nightmare happened during his tour in Afghanistan. Will, 33, who asked that NPR not...

There are antlers everywhere on the walls of Bryan and Mike McDonel's place near Pine Bluff, Ark. The house is hardly big enough for all their hunting trophies. Both are good shots with their hunting bows; Bryan and Mike, his father, served in the Arkansas National Guard and deployed together to Iraq, twice. The McDonel family has served in the military for generations. But Bryan, 35, is out of the service now. He is one of thousands of troops and veterans who struggle with addiction to...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: President Obama has decided on his choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has nominated Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble. This afternoon the president introduced him at the VA, here in Washington. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the VA right now is his three decades of experience in building...

The current crisis in Iraq has focused on the Sunni-Shiite conflict, but relatively little has been heard from the other major ethnic group in Iraq, the Kurds. And that's just the way the Kurds would like it. The Kurds have been seeking an independent state for a century but have been stymied at every turn. As the Shiites and the Sunnis slug it out, the Kurds are demonstrating, so far at least, that they can maintain peace and stability in their semi-autonomous region in the northeastern part...

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure is close enough to a version already passed by the House that it could reach the president's desk soon.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Tens of thousands of veterans have been waiting months to get medical appointments, all while VA hospital staff claimed patients were being seen in 14 days or less. The FBI is now involved in a VA inspector general's investigation into the problem. And Congress has moved with rare bipartisan speed. This afternoon, the Senate passed a bill to reform the VA. It was backed by ideological rivals, Arizona...

A new generation of American vets is home from war — about 2.6 million of them. And there are about 10 million older veterans, many from the Vietnam era, hitting their 60s, 70s or 80s. Taking care of both groups is getting expensive. "If they can afford to pay for wars, they can afford to pay for the treatment after the wars," says Garry Augustine, with Disabled American Veterans. DAV and other private veterans' organizations draw up their own "independent budget" for the Department of...

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