The Cost of War; The Meaning of Memorial Day



Veterans Suicide – an Epidemic – Part I

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On Memorial Day, Americans honor the fallen.  Soldiers whose faces will never appear before us again are remembered for their service.  Only the few, friends and family, will recall the life of those young men and women who passed from this world into another.  In a country grateful for the protection troops provide, people will shop on this holy day.  A President will place a wreath on the grave of an unknown soldier.  Beautiful speeches will be made in the spirit of homage.  Americans will bow their heads in respect.  Reverence will be offered, and statistics that document the effects of war will not be shared.  Yet, the numbers cry out for attention, just as the pained servicemen and women do.

  • The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate.  In 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18- to 24-years-old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
  • About 126 veterans per week commit suicide.
  • About 154,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night.  One-fourth of the homeless population is veterans.
  • There are more homeless Vietnam veterans than the number of soldiers who were killed during that war.
  • It takes at least 5.5 years, on average, to resolve a benefit claim with the Veteran’s Administration.
  • More than 600,000 unresolved claims are backlogged with the Veteran’s Administration.
  • Approximately 18.5 percent of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression.
  • 19.5 percent of these veterans report experiencing traumatic brain injury.
  • Roughly half of those who need treatment seek it, but only slightly more than half of those who receive treatment receive at least minimally adequate care, according to an April 2008 Rand Report.

The research reveals a sorrowful reality.  In an affluent nation, too many veterans suffer from more than a physical wound.  Yet, citizens act as though they do not care.  Undeniably, the American people offer words of support.  However, these statements are empty.  Expressions of sensitivity do not heal physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual lesions.  Congressional Bills may provide some solace, that is if they ever pass.  Fearful Americans accept what politicians proclaim, a preference to protect and defend a nation adrift.

The White House and the Pentagon said they feared that the bill would encourage men and women to leave the armed forces and enroll in college with federal aid, at a time when the military already has difficulty retaining troops to fight abroad.

Conservation of the Corps, an accretion in the Armed Forces, this is America’s mission.  The United States must be prepared to defend its shores.  The conventional wisdom reminds us, war will always be with us..  Conflict will continue to exist in perpetuity.

Therefore, greenbacks must be devoted to defense.  A soldier’s depression or injuries cannot be considered a priority.  Servicemen and women are trained to “suck it up,” as are the American people.

The public is convinced there is no need to ponder the benefits of peace, for in their minds tranquility will never come .  Nor do we reflect on the personal  or financial costs of war.  Millions spent need not make sense.  Military might is marvelous.  Memorials are evidence that we are proud.

Many are intent; America must win the fight.  Mavericks, such as former prisoner of war and Presidential aspirant John McCain remind us.  We must remain stalwart.  Victory is at hand.  

The battle against a perceived human enemy takes precedence for a pompous public.  In the United States.  the struggle for sanity amongst those who served, while lost, is of little significance to the individuals safe in their cocooned world of wonderment.  Few Americans can count the cents spent on treatment for the troops who return to the homeland with  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or traumatic brain injury.  In April 2008, the Rand Corporation, presented the research in a report.

The Rand study estimates the societal costs of PTSD and major depression for two years after deployment range from about $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case.  Depending whether the economic cost of suicide is included, the RAND study estimates the total society costs of the conditions for two years range from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.

The RAND study also estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment – the term used to describe a range of injuries from mild concussions to severe penetrating head wounds.  Just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for that injury.

While most civilian traumatic brain injuries are mild and do not lead to long-term impairments, the extent of impairments that service members experience and whether they require treatment is largely unknown, researchers said.  In the absence of a medical examination and prognosis, however, service members may believe that their post-deployment difficulties are due to head injuries even when they are not.

One-year estimates of the societal cost associated with treated cases of mild traumatic brain injury range up to $32,000 per case, while estimates for treated moderate to severe cases range from $268,000 to more than $408,000.  Estimates of the total one-year societal cost of the roughly 2,700 cases of traumatic brain injury identified to date range from $591 million to $910 million.

 

Yet, a month after these revelations were released, few Americans mourn the toll war takes on the living.  Instead, citizens “celebrate” Memorial Day.  Members of Congress muse, and mull over how to best serve those who serve us.  Yet, nothing truly changes.  Time marches on as do the memories that haunt those who were in Iraq and Afghanistan.  No one notices, or at least those in power do not rush to alter reality.  Presidential candidates posit in remembrance,

Memorial Day Draws Two Messages on Iraq

By Jeff Zeleny and Michael Falcone

The New York Times

May 26, 2008

Las Cruces, N.M. – Senator John McCain stood before hundreds of flag-waving veterans and their families on Monday and vowed not to waver in his support of the Iraq war.  “Even,” he said, “if I must stand athwart popular opinion.”

Senator Barack Obama addressed a separate audience of veterans and received vigorous applause when he declared, “As many of you know, my intention is to bring this war in Iraq to a close and to start bringing home our troops in an orderly fashion.”

If Labor Day is the traditional opener to the fall presidential race, this Memorial Day offered at least a preview into the summertime duel between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama . . . .

As Mr. McCain spoke about the costs and sacrifices of the Iraq war at the Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque, Mr. Obama praised the patriotism of America’s soldiers before taking voters’ questions – and hearing their frustrations about Iraq and a host of other concerns  . . .

Will the Iraq war and the nation’s security once again be the chief concern to voters in the general election?  In a 20-minute speech, with the flags of all branches of the armed forces at his back, Mr. McCain made 14 references to Iraq.  Later, he invited Mr. Obama to join him on a tour of Iraq.  (Mr. Obama did not immediately say whether he would accept.)

“As long as there is a reasonable prospect for succeeding in this war,” Mr. McCain said, “then we must not choose to lose it.”

Or will economic anxieties at home and a fierce disapproval over the direction of the country be of higher concern to voters?  

If the past and the present predict the future, money will matter.  Most of the dollars doled out will go to protect and defend, not to save soldiers from the sanctity (insanity) of war.

The public barely ponders the seriousness of what combat causes or effects, that is, unless the conflict pinches the pocketbook.  Even then, on this solemn occasion, as on most others, the discussion is purely political.  People feel powerless.  Perchance that is why Americans avoid the conversation; how might we serve those who serve us.

Wars kill warriors, frequently from the inside out.  The few people who care for the troops, provide for those who sacrificed their lives and lived, those who feel the pain of loved ones lost to depression and injury, listen to the rhetoric and ponder.  If we are to truly memorialize the fallen, why not venerate veterans who suffer emotionally, just as we do the soldiers who were physically destroyed in battle.

Might we learn what history attempts to teach us.  Combat cannot create peace of mind; nor does warfare yield to global harmony.  The physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of conflict is too great.  If we are to authentically pay tribute to out troops, let us no longer engage violently.  Let us discuss the actual tax of war.  Might we show our soldiers the highest regard and adequately care for all those maimed and mutilated.  Perchance, it is time to redefine the mission and what it means to offer a memorial.

Cut Funds for Combat.  Costs are Too High . . .



David L. Giaimo 24

David L. Giaimo 24. © copyright 2008 CappyBoy

Remembering Veterans. “Dear America, Letters Home From” Veterans

© copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert


I am not an expert on war.  I am only an observer, an optimist, and a believer in peace.  I admit I do not believe that any war can be fought to end all wars.  My trust is in peaceful practices.  I think communication is the only way to eliminate combat.  Confrontation is loathsome to me.  I have yet to see a reason for it.

I accept and experience reactive behaviors reap the same in return.  It is my strongest belief that people mirror each other.  Actually, scientists have discovered “mirror neurons” in our brains.  Humans learn through observation and repeat what they catch a glimpse of.  Thus, my preference is never to witness war, not even amongst friends, families, or neighbors.

My heart hurts when I consider the prospect of fighting.  Many years ago, I read gut-wrenching letters written by those that fought in feudal battles.  These communiqués were offered in a book titled, “Dear America, Letters Home From Vietnam.”  Soldiers were far from their domicile, longing to share with those they loved.  They also feared saying too much. 

Nevertheless, young men and women penned their pondering.  They engraved their emotions onto paper as best they could.  Girls and boys alike sent sentiments to their loved ones at home.  As I read these exchanges, I cried.  Much was evoked within me. 

I have heard many a veteran state, no matter what the war, what the language, the emotions of soldiers are the same.  There is much sorrow as they watch their buddies move on from an Earthly existence to the great beyond.  I suspect as fellow humans we can all relate and identify with loss, particularly when it is wickedly brutal.

No, I am not an specialist; I have no skills when speaking of warfare.  I only have a heart.  I offer this to you dear reader, Letters Home From Vietnam, and those from other wars.  I present an audiovisual sense of the war, then some actual writings from the troops.

I reach out to you and hope that you will be inspired to extend a hand to our veterans.  I do not think there can be a Happy Veterans Day, only an honorable one.

Viet Nam stories by Mike Bailey

Jan 12, 1969
Dear Family,
I got the package yesterday, and I was real grateful.  We are low on C-rations, and there is hardly any water.

We are supposed to be out in the bush for 4 days, but it ended up we’re still out here.  It’s been about 2 weeks now.  We are guarding this road.  Making sure no VC get anywhere near the first Battalion, 1st Marines area, (1/1).  Every afternon I’ve got gate watch.  We all take turns from dawn to dusk.  We just have to check out the ID’s of the civilians going up and down the road.  If they don’t have an ID, they are suspected of being a VC.  The gate is a big cement grave.  Our whole perimeter is set up in a big graveyard.  In fact, our bunker is on top of a cement grave with sandbags on all sides.  On one end, we built a little hootch, and our machine gun is set right on top where the body was laid.  I think that’s pretty cool.  Inside the hootch, there is the tombstone with all kinds of Chinese writing on it.  At night, we have a candle burning inside to see by.

Last night I went on a fire team-sized patrol, a fire team consists of 4 people.  The leader was some corporal who I don’t feel safe with at all.  He got here in Vietnam the same time I did, but he was put in charge right away because he’s a corporal.  He goes by the book on everything.  If we get hit we aren’t supposed to fire back, only on his command.  I’d rather be with somebody that has a little more time in country, and knows what to do.

In about 5 months I will be the machine gunner for this squad, and in about 7 months I will be team leader.  All the other guys in this gun team will be going home around the same time.  Now I’m just the last ammo humper, but I don’t mind just as long as I gradually learn my job.

Soon I will have T-I-C, (time in country), and the experience.  That’s what counts here.

I’m learning this language ok now, but the Marines only know a few phrases like “come here,” “go away,” “let me see your ID,” etc; but I want to learn more than this.

Mom, you were wondering what kinds of birds they have here.  They are beautiful, nothing like in the USA.  There’s swans, and big white birds with long necks, and ordinary birds with crowns on their heads, and then other birds that look like sparrows, only half their size.

I’m glad to hear you had snow.  I kind of wish it would snow here once in awhile.

Enclosed are some pictures.  Could you save them for me?  They’ll get ruined over here.  You can have the ones of me if you want.  Also enclosed is part of a diary I started when I first got here.  I’d better go now.

Mike

Note: VC = Viet Cong
Hootch = this is any temporary, or permanant dwelling either built by Marines, or already existing.  It is a place where Marines live.  It can be made of sticks covered with canvas, or a poncho liner.  It can be a wooden building built by Sea-Rees.  It can be small, or big.

January 29, 1969
Dear Family,
About those pictures that I sent home.  I know some of them didn’t turn out so well, but I believe that man you talked to was wrong.  Mom, all those pictures were taken in broad daylight.  They were so light probably because the way these Vietnamese people develop them.  They don’t even develop all the pictures.

They cut off about 1/16th of every picture so it would fit the paper they use.  I’m sending some more pictures in this letter.  These were taken while we were guarding that road.  I took one picture of a Vietnamese grave, but they cut part of the grave out of it so the picture ended up looking like I just took it of a tree line.  You can send film if you want to.  Right now the PX is out, and has been for over a month.  But don’t send any flash bulbs.  I dropped my camera a couple of times and now it won’t take flash bulbs.  That little light doesn’t work anymore.  One time I tried flash bulbs but it didn’t work.  126 is the size of film.  I’ll send negatives home too because I want to keep them.  Yes, they were all taken with my camera.

Most everybody takes their camera out in the field, There’s a lot to take pictures of.

I got that birthday cake about the 24th, and it was good.  I opened it and cut it up and took a piece out, turned my head a second then looked back and the cake disappeared.  Everybody in the tent got a piece.  They liked it.  Especially since it came from the “World.”  Everything you sent so far is in good shape except for a few crumbled cookies, but that’s ok.  The cake was in perfect condition.  The paper gets here regularly.  Sometimes I get 2 papers at a time.

Here I am 20 years old now.  I’m a man now, not a teenager anymore.  We went out this morning as a blocking force while another platoon swept through a ville.  Usually our platoon is the one that always has to sweep.  It’s pretty interesting when you sweep a ville, because you get to check out houses and people.  Sweeping a field is a pain in the neck.

A couple of nights ago there was this guy playing his guitar on a platform in our area.  He was singing folk songs.  I went up to watch, and some guys I knew wanted me to play and sing, so I went down and got my guitar and we took turns playing and singing all night long, and swapping songs.  It was fun.

Usually at night when I’m playing my guitar, a couple friends of mine come over and we sing all kinds of songs.  One night we sang ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ for about 2 hours.  The songs we mostly sing is stuff like ‘Red River Valley,’ ‘Tom Dooley,’ ‘JesseJames,’ and stuff like that.  I like to sing other things, but most of the guys in this tent are from the south, and that’s all they know by heart.  In fact, everyone in this tent is from the south.  I’m the only one from the north.  I’d better go now.

Mike

February 24, 1969
Hi,
Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  We just got back from an operation yesterday, and it’s been a very busy 2 weeks.  We went down to a place called Dodge City and there is buku gooks (there).  We got choppered in.  While we were landing, we got sniped at all the way down.  One guy got shot in the leg.  We landed in a big field of elephant grass.  It’s about 6 feet tall and is real thick.  (The temperature) is about 1000 out.  (In addition to all this) we had all our gear on, including packs, so it was a hard hump.  Out of our company we had about 5 heat casualties, and four of our men got medevacked out. (Medical evacuation)

Everyone else was physically exhausted, and we were short of water.  Finally we made it to where we were going, so we set up a perimeter.  The next day Bravo Company went out, and Mike Company stayed back.  They got into a fire fight and one man got killed.  The next day, and all the rest of the time we were there; we went out, and Bravo stayed back.  We were cut no huss.  Everyday we’d go out in that blazing sun with only two canteens of water.  It was truely hell.  The third day we got into a real bad firefight.  There was NVA everywhere.  Everyone was hollering “Guns up!” We were already on our way.  We ran about 20 meters.  The NVA already made their hat on the other side of a birm wall.

We made it up (the wall) and set the gun up, and sprayed the area in front of us.  I was so busy getting belts of ammo ready to feed into the gun, I didn’t have time to shoot my rifle.  I only shot up around 18 rounds, one magazine.  The other gun team hit a booby-trap and Kenny, one of my good friends, got a piece of shrapnel in his arm.  It was a miracle that nobody else in the team caught any.  I guess they all hit the deck at the right time.  Another one of my friends, Butch H.  got a piece of shrapnel in his chin.  He got really pissed off.  Finally the shooting stopped, and they called in air strikes.  So the bombers came and bombed the hell out of the area 20 meters in front of us. 

We thought they were bombing us at first, because it was so close, and all kinds of dirt clods fell on top of us.  If it weren’t for our flack gear and helmets we would have taken casualties.  As it was, Kenny, the guy who got shrapnel in his arm (while on the birm wall), got a big chunk of dirt dropped on his back and broke it.  We could hear him screaming and yelling in pain as they took him on a stretcher.  Finally Doc decided to give him morphine to ease the pain.  Then they took him to the chopper to be medevacked out.  There was one man killed in the firefight.  He got shot in the back of the neck.  By the time Doc Collins got to him the last of his blood spurted out of him.

Doc was in hysteria.  He’s really a brave guy.  Whenever anything happens he’s right there.  He’s always worrying about us too.  Always making sure everyone takes their salt tablets and malaria pills.  All together that day we lost 11 men.  1 killed and 10 injured.  For seven days we lost one man a day.  Sometimes 2,3, and four a day.  They were all heat casualties.  We were down to 17 grunts left out of 32.  Then after a few days they brought new men in.

At night the gooks were at it too.  They’d sneak up to a hole and drop a grenade.  Many people were wounded (this way), and a couple were killed.  I just thank the Good Lord none came up to our hole.  A couple of times I thought I heard something and threw grenades, and shot at it with my rifle even if it was nothing.  I felt a lot better about it after I fired at it.

Well, it ended up we came back yesterday.  We weren’t even back 20 minutes when we had to go back out again.  One guy got killed (a guy I came over to Vietnam with), and 5 injured.  We were very happy when we got back from that operation, and then that had to happen.  It was hard on everyone.

A few days later

We had to go out again since I started this letter.  We weren’t here over 8 hours and we were (called) out in the bush again.

Concerning that old graveyard (in Snohomish).  I knew there was a graveyard there, but somebody told me it was an old Indian Graveyard.  I never went there.  Someday maybe I will.

You asked me if I wanted to be a member of that Historical Society.  Well, I wouldn’t mind it, but is it for old people or what?

“What” is the question.  When we honor our Veterans and devote ourselves to their day, what are we saying?

I am stating that while I choose to honor our war veterans, I fear the likelihood that there will be more.  I ask us all to consider the concept and construct of combat. I hope that in my lifetime I will be able to say, “I am a Veteran of Peace.” 

May tranquility, calm, and concord be with us all on this day and everyday.

For more letters, more soldiers, many wars, please view . . .

  • IN COUNTRY: Spirit, Two, By possum. Friday, November 10, 2006
  • Letters Home From Vietnam,  Bruce Schulze RM3, ARL-23 (70-71)
  • Paul O’Connell. I was a grunt in Vietnam back in 68-69. I served with Mike Co., 3rd Bn, 5th Marines.
  • The Things They Wrote. New York Times. November 11, 2003
  • Union County WWI Veterans – Letters Home
  • Correspondence, From the Front World War I

    Additional Reference . . .

  • “Mirror Neurons” NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
  • Support Our Troops, In Death And In Life

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert


    Throughout my life, the musical “My Fair Lady” resonated within me.  As I reflect upon our soldiers, and the oft-heard phrase, “Support Our Troops,” I am again reminded of this theatrical production.  Eliza Doolittle sang a song, “Show Me.”  She emphatically stated, “Make me no undying vow.  Show me now! Sing me no song!  Read me no rhyme!  Don’t waste my time, Show me!”

    This was exactly my thought as I read a New York Times article, “Veterans Await a Resting Place That Is Truly Final.”  We offer our troops words; too often, our actions do not show them that we mean what we say.  Apparently, whether we are discussing our soldiers serving in Iraq or those toiling in Afghanistan, there is reason to believe, that we, the people of United States of America, do not truly support our troops; in life; nay in death.

    Most of us know that promises were made to our service men and women in recent years.  They are told that their tour of duty overseas will be short-lived; however, months became years.  Our Administration, we, assured the troops, they are spreading democracy.  Military men and women were told the people of Iraq would greet them with open arms.  Yet, in fact, American soldiers were perceived as occupiers.  They were unwelcome by most in the Middle East. 

    More of our countrymen now accept that much of what we told our troops is not true.  The Department of Defense has not honored its men and women.  In life, our soldiers receive little genuine support from the government.  However, few realize that even in death, we as a nation do not honor our veterans.  The Pentagon, Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and our nation’s leaders make commitments.  Rarely, do they keep these.  Just as Eliza realized, words are only words.  Officials need to show our soldiers what they intend.  Actions speak loudly.

    In reviewing this article I learned veterans returning from Viet Nam, Korea, or even those that protected our country during either World War, realize an unexpected truth; fortunately, most are not alive to fully experience what their families do. 

    The federal government is racing to keep pace with the deaths of America’s warriors.  Half of the country’s 124 veterans cemeteries are closed to burials.  More than 1,800 veterans die each day, 12 percent choosing a soldier’s burial.

    Deaths are expected to peak this year, at 688,000, and continue near that level for a long time, as 9.5 million of the nation’s living veterans are over the age of 65.  The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will take at least until 2009 to catch up with demand.
    The problem can be traced to a long lull in building cemeteries, between 1940 and 1970.  The few built were on sites the government already owned or got free, often far from the veterans who needed them.  This was cheaper and easier in the short term than venturing into the private marketplace, but the path chosen by the V.A. merely delayed the inevitable.

    With a push from Congress, the department in 1999 began the largest expansion of the national cemetery system since the Civil War.  Twelve regions of the country were identified as needing new cemeteries, those with at least 170,000 veterans and no available burial sites within 75 miles – the distance that families said they were willing to travel.

    Reading this after the release or resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seems ironic to me. 

    Secretary Rumsfeld was often criticized for doing the Iraq war “on the cheap.”  Even military experts questioned the validity of expenses and priorities.  Had Rumsfeld or the American people considered the true costs of the war, those that are sadly, and too often hidden, what would we have done.  Perhaps, we would have calculated more than surface or supposed concerns.

    It seems this nation rarely determines what war creates, death.  As I discovered tonight, not spending money on the troops is not novel.  For centuries, our country has been unwilling to cover necessary or peripheral expenses.  The lives of soldiers are of little consequence to the military brass.  Troops are expendable to those that do never get to know these individuals as people.  The burial of their bodies is of lesser concern.  There will be time to think about that later.  Weapons on the other hand, are thought to be worthy; however, . . .

    During this current crisis, we are told protective armor for man, woman, or vehicles is too expensive.  Funding for grunt salaries is limited.  Incentives for recruitment are increasing; however, there is a reason for that.  Without a draft, we must persuade those we wish to hire.

    When we as a nation evaluate war, rarely do we consider what is real [people die] what is tangible [more die], or invisible [even more die].  We enter into battle on the premise that there is a “just cause.”

    Therefore, our government finds dollars to do a dastardly deed.  We, as a country, can afford to kill innocents, civilians, and our young soldiers.  The money is not necessarily allocated in our nation’s budget; nonetheless, it is always available.  There are impressions to keep.  Images are important to maintain. 

    We, as a nation spend $177 million per day on killing.  We say we want to keep our soldiers alive.  We declare, “Support our troops.”  We produce millions of magnetic monograms to “show” how sincere we truly are.  Yet, are we?

    In truth, it seems America cannot afford to protect those that protect us, or at least this nation chooses not to pay the price for a reasonable burial.  We do not deliver on others promises.  Salaries and gear are lacking.  Leaves are not delivered as pledged.  A proper military burial can be delayed, often for years.

    When the nation’s newest veterans cemetery opened near Sacramento on October 16, the first to be buried were Alvin Hayman, a second lieutenant in the Marines during the post-World War II occupation of Japan, and his wife, Irene.  He had died in 2004, his remains kept in an urn for two years.  His wife died in 2000 – about the time that Mr. Hayman, a homebuilder, decided to sell 550 acres to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Her ashes sat for six years waiting for the new cemetery.

    The real estate deal that Mr. Hayman embraced took four years to close – just five days before he succumbed to cancer.  Jon Hayman, the couple’s 56-year-old son and formerly a partner in his father’s real estate business, said the pace of government bureaucracy was slow.  “He had hoped to see the first burial, not be the first burial,” Mr. Hayman said from his home in Los Altos, California.

    The cemetery in Atlanta, six months after opening, continues to hold delayed burials.  The director, Sandy Beckley, said 303 of its first 530 funerals were for veterans who had died as long as three years ago, with 120 still on the calendar.  Where burial grounds are at capacity, the department looks for ways to squeeze in more people, sometimes buying adjacent land or building columbaria for cremated remains.

    Oh, how sad.  This is how the United States government “we the people” show our support.  We send our young men and women to slaughter.  Some pass while in action and then wait for their final honorable discharge.  [A year ago soldier Frank La Belle was killed in battle.  His wife still waits to bury his remains.]  Others survive for years after the war.  Each expects a proper military burial.  However, we must ask, when?

    When will we truly support our troops and afford them the dignity they deserve?  When will we respect, honor, and provide for those that served US [the United States of America]?

    May they rest in peace . . .

  • “My Fair Lady”
  • Lyrics “Show Me.”
  • “Veterans Await a Resting Place That Is Truly Final.” By Jane Gross. New York Times. November 9, 2006
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs Budget for Fiscal Year 2006 Veterans’ Affairs Committee
  • Rumsfeld ‘wanted cheap war.’ BBC News. Sunday, 30 March, 2003
  • More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfeld’s Resignation, By David S. Cloud and Eric Schmitt. New York Times. April 14, 2006
  • Bush: Rumsfeld stepping down Cable News Network. November 08, 2006
  • Bring our boys home: Mothers say war was ‘based on lies.’ By Severin Carrell. The Independent. June 4, 2006>
  • Clock in NYC shows cost of Iraq war. USA Today. August 26, 2004
  • Poll: Iraqis out of patience, By Cesar G. Soriano and Steven Komarow. USA Today. April 28, 2004
  • Cost of War. The National Priorities Project (NPP)
  • U.S. Military Weapons Cost Overruns in the Billions: Report, By Agence France-Presse. Defense News. April 17, 2006
  • Conflict with Iraq: Military families must deal with financial sacrifice, too, By Mary Deibel. Scripps Howard News Service. Naples Daily News Sunday, April 6, 2003
  • Who’s going to pay for Iraq war? When? By Jonathan Coopersmith.  Miami Herald.  November 8, 2006
  • SupportYourTroops.us
  • Support Our Troops – USA
  • PDF Soldiers In for Extended Tour of Duty, By Julian E. Barnes. Los Angeles Times. September 26, 2006
  • Soldiers In for Extended Tour of Duty, By Julian E. Barnes. Los Angeles Times. September 26, 2006
  • ‘Nightline’ Investigation: Wounded Soldiers Told They Owe Money to Army, By Brian Ross. ABC News.  January 31, 2006
  • Army, Marines miss recruiting goals again, By Jim Miklaszewski. MSNBC News. May 10, 2005
  • Army Meets Goals With Signing Bonuses. September 9, 2006
  • Remember the Cost of War, By Paul Rieckhoff. www.military.com May 29, 2006
  • G.I. Families United in Grief, but Split by the War, By Monica Davey, The New York Times. January 2, 2005
  • The War After the War, A ‘select club’ struggles on. By Thomas Farragher, Boston Globe. October 31, 2006

    For a Personal Perspective, Please also review . . .

  • Conflict in Iraq. Tour of Duty. The Spokesman-Review
  • Conflict in Iraq. Among the dead. The Spokesman-Review
  • Volunteer Armed Forces Or Victims Of Vouchers ©

    Are American armed forces a collection of volunteers, or, are most, the victims of vouchers?  We, as a nation, turn to the poor; the hopeless, to those that feel helpless, and we ask them to join the armed forces in the name of patriotism.  Yet, most do not feel particularly patriotic; they do not endorse a war that was instigated on false premises.  Few feel loyal to a country that let them down, one that did not provide for all equally.

    Many of these disheartened grew up in substandard housing.  Millions of them have received a less than adequate education.  For some, their race is not treated with respect; for others their religious practice is not honored.  Nonetheless, this country asks these individuals to serve.  A nation that shows little if any reverence for the disadvantaged wants them to enlist.  Knowingly, these men and women refuse.  They decline to place their own lives on the line, the frontline.  The do not wish to tempt fate and this is why recruiting numbers are down.

    The youth of American and even those slightly older, those that are now being offered enticements, do not long to be among the hundreds of thousands that leave their homes for a far away place.  Life in a land of war is not their preference.  Coming back to the States with a chest full of medals does not appeal to them.  Numerous have observed, first-hand, that often, a decorated uniform only hides the scars beneath it.

    Our less privileged men and women do not wish to return home safely in a body bag.  These men and women do not desire a life of doubt or possible death.  The poor and less fortunate youth of America do not yearn for a career of misfortune.  A flag-draped coffin is not the future they hope for.  For the first time, the Army and Marines admit, for the entire year, recruitment objectives were not met.

    Yet, there are appearances to be kept.  We as a country must allude to patriotism; we must establish a sense of strength.  Our citizens must impress upon others that we are a united front.  To this end, the Pentagon proselytizes.

    Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine recruiters attempt to convince the youth to serve their country; they ask the youthful to join the armed forces voluntarily.  However, as the wars linger on, garnering “volunteers” is a struggle.

    When recruiters cannot induce induction, cannot entice enlistees, they resort to rewards.  The Department of Defense is turning to Congress; asking for further funding.  Armed forces wish to offer rewards to those that relent.  The military hopes that the dire straits of the poor, the helpless, and the hopeless will work to their advantage.  The armed forces are banking on the belief that struggling souls will choose to be victims of vouchers.

    Therefore, the armed services are asking Congress to approve as much as $40,000 in bonuses.  The current benefit of $20, 000 is no longer enough; $20 thousand can buy a car; but it cannot buy a soldier.  The cost of war is great and growing greater; lives are at stake.  Perhaps, $50,000 would be better; this amount would help new troops purchase a house.  Nevertheless, novice soldiers will pay for this prosperity.  To receive these benefits individuals are required to enlist for eight long years.  They are obliged to leave their families, to leave their homes, to leave the safety and security that we all covet.  These soldiers are required to give their hearts, souls, and possibly, probably their lives to military service.

    For the most part, this nation’s armed forces are not literally “volunteer”; they are not a group of unpaid helpers.  They are a collection of the coerced; cash is the catalyst for their action.  The military seeks out those in need and then offers them money, lots, and lots of loot!  For hard cash seems to quiet the nerves of the reluctant, or at least it allows a person to forget what they are truly facing.

    These poor and hopeless are our strength, our numbers, our soldiers, and our troops and thus, we support them.  We buy their patriotism and create a second-class, those that are victims of vouchers.

    I offer the thoughts of others and references that document the disparity among our troops.

    Army Recruiting More High School Dropouts to Meet Goals, By Eric Schmitt

    This is an excellent yet, frightening piece, The Children’s Crusade by Jennifer Wedekind, In These Times

    Military Families Speak Out About Recruiting Practices; Families Say ‘Examine the Real Problem — Call for A Stand-Down on the War in Iraq

    Reluctant Warriors, Recruitment Shortfall ©

    In a Memorial Day service President Bush referred to America as a nation of “reluctant warriors.” Recent endeavors to enlist soldiers validate this claim.  NBC Nightly News reports, “For the first time, Army and Marine Corps officials are privately admitting they’ll probably miss their overall recruiting target for the entire year.”

    Vigorous attempts were made to lure recruits.  Age restrictions were altered, educational requirements were reduced, pay, and benefits were increased, and still, there are few takers.  Incentives and enticements are ample.  Yet, only handfuls wish to enlist.  Recruiters find great reluctance even among the poor and the black.  In the past, these groups were more likely to volunteer.  These men and women were prepared to sacrifice their lives, merely for a chance to survive, financially.  However, this too has changed.

    One Army official stated the outlook is “bleak.”  The war on terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq have taken a physical and emotional toll.  While the Pentagon, the Whitehouse, and the media have attempted to hide the true cost of war, we know.

    Though photographs of the wounded and fallen have rarely been seen, we see what they do not wish to acknowledge.  Many of us have family, friends, or acquaintances that have been severely affected by the wars.  Lives have been lost, limbs too.  Hospital wards are filled with soldiers whose vision is permanently impaired; yet, for them, the image of war is vivid.  They may not tell their tales aloud, the pain is too great, yet we hear them.

    Our young citizens do not wish to create their own stories of woe; they will wait to join the armed forces.  They will join when there is no threat of war.  Yes, America is a country of reluctant warriors, possibly, more so now than ever before.

    The Army has missed its recruiting target for four straight months.  In May, the numbers were off by 25 percent; there were 1700 less recruits than needed.  Actually, the Army lessened its goal based on the previous months lull.  Had the original objective of 8,000 recruits for May been sustained, there would have been a 38 percent shortfall.

    The Army National Guard has also repeatedly failed to meet its directives.  In the month of May, they fell short by 20 percent.  While unwilling to release specific numbers, Marine Corps officials say, they have not met their objectives for the last five months.  This is the first time in a decade that the Marines have experienced a truth such as this.

    For months, recruiting has been in question.  Reports quietly reveal shortfalls; however, these are always accompanied by a barely plausible explanation.  American citizens are told not to worry; volunteers will enthusiastically join the armed services.  Many wish to serve their country, and they will come forward.  Countless men and women want to protect America from harm.  Patriotism is on the rise.  Can we trust these pronouncements?

    President Bush proudly proclaims,  “Because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, two terror regimes are gone forever, freedom is on the march, and America is more secure.”  In spite of these words, there is the news.  There are reports of terrorism.  Afghanistan is said to be a breeding ground.  Pakistan is training more.  Suicide bombings are a daily event in Iraq, and there are divisions within a new and supposed democracy.  It is said that a civil war is inevitable.  Nonetheless, our government wants us to believe that “freedom is on the march.”

    Mr. Bush declares, “America is more secure.”  However, those of us at home do not necessarily feel more secure.  There are red, orange, and yellow alerts.  Offices in Washington DC are evacuated; people are in fear of a small plane approaching.  Pockets are emptied and shoes removed in order to board jumbo jet.  President Bush tours the country; he tells the people that the Patriot Act is essential.  Mr. Bush wants this law to be permanently adopted!  The loss of privacy will become our standard, all in the name of national security.  Are we more secure?

    Continually, the President and the Pentagon say that this will be a long protracted war; there is no end in sight.  Officials speculate and contemplate while bombs continue to blast.  There is no known exit strategy and the reason for entering Iraq was likely contrived.

    Thus, we wonder.  What is true?  Are we a nation of reluctant warriors or a country reluctant to trust?  Is this war wise and do we want to engage?  Yes, there are reluctant recruits, those that do not desire to be warriors.  They are hesitant to believe that this war will ever end and they do not wish to lose their lives, their limbs or more, for what may not bring freedom or make us more secure.

    Please visit the thoughts of Steve Soto, from The Left Coaster.  He discusses As Iraqi Army Flounders, US Army On Verge Of Staffing Crisis.

    In Memory Of Our Soldiers. Bush, “Mindful” of War ©

    On this Memorial Day 2005, as on memorials days in the past, I feel such sorrow.  I wish that we were memorializing peace and not war, the living and not those that have passed.  I wish that we were as our current President often espouses, “mindful.”  My regret is that we, as a nation, speak of harmony while creating conflict.  We talk of negotiations and then often forego diplomatic measures.  We fight wars to end all wars, and we do this repeatedly.

    Today, in honor of the “holiday” my mind drifts.  I contemplate the meaning of this homage.  I believe that this day is intended for reflection and remembrance.  It is a day to recall all of our fallen heroes, those that served in every war.  It is a time to reflect upon “battles” and to consider the lives lost.  On this occasion, we might ponder what we treasure.  Our thoughts will undoubtedly turn to families, those that grieve the loss of their sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers, and know that they will see them no more.  At present, my hope is that we will think about the tragedy of having not learned from history.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    ~ George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

    In recent years, our President and his pundits have decided to unilaterally attack, to bomb, to kill, and to maim, as nations of people protest.  The United States declared and engages in war.  This action was and is taken in the name of “democracy.”  American principals profess “goodness” and then, aggressively they order our youth to fight to the death.  The President of the United States speaks of the importance of “God.”  He claims there is “evil” and that we must destroy it.  Yet, for me, the idea of destruction is vice.  The result: Memorial Day.

    In memorial, President Bush addresses the issue of “war.”  He talks of our “courageous soldiers.”  Mr. Bush expresses thoughts of “prayer,” and “world peace.”  He discusses “democracy” and as our president speaks, I listen.  I am reminded of how often his constructs seem limited in scope.  President Bush proudly proclaims that he is a simple man, a straight talking man, and apparently, he is.  His visions are often “black or white.”  “Right or wrong.”  He muses that “you are either with us or against us.”  He says this as he expresses a desire to create coalitions.

    For George W. Bush, people and precepts are “good” or they are “evil.”  Governments are democratic or ruled by tyrants.  There is no in-between for this, our self-proclaimed “mindful” President. Today, as I hear his words, I am again perplexed.  My confusion is this.

    Quite some time ago, I purchased a book titled “Mindfulness.”  Professor Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D., of Harvard University is the author.  The copyright for this book was awarded in1989.  On days such as today, I feel a need to I turn to this book again.  I open to Chapter One, “When the Light is On and Nobody’s Home;” I read and reflect.  I recall recent rhetoric and I wonder of Mr. Bush and his frequent use of the term, “mindful.”

    Langer begins by discussing how we are “Trapped by Categories.”  She writes, ” We experience the world by creating categories and making distinctions among them.”  For instance, “This is a Chinese, not a Japanese vase,” or as President Bush might say of Iraq and did in his 2002 State of the Union address, “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil.”  George W. Bush is certain of this construct.  He has classified Iraq as “evil” and it is, for him, as he often declares, “just that simple.”

    Dr. Langer continues, “Without categories the world might seem to escape us.”  She states, “Tibetan Buddhist call this [the] habit of the mind, “The Lord of Speech.”  The Tibetan Buddhists define this practice, “We adopt sets of categories which serve as ways of managing phenomena.  The most fully developed products of this tendency are ideologies, the systems of ideas that rationalize, justify, and sanctify our lives.  Nationalism, communism, existentialism, Christianity, Buddhism all provide us with identities, rules of action, and interpretations of how and why things happen.”

    Langer expands and expounds; she states, “The creation of new categories, is a mindful activity.  Mindlessness sets in when we rely too rigidly on categories and distinctions created in the past.”  Examples of these might be, “We are good; they are evil.”  “We are right; they are wrong.”  “Saddam Hussein delivers ??lies, deceptions, and defiance.'”  I could offer a host of other Bushisms.  However, the list is endless.

    Professor Langer writes, “Once distinctions are created, they take on a life of their own.”  The categories we make gather momentum and are very hard to overthrow.  We build our own and shared realities and then become victims of them ?” blind to the fact that they are constructs, ideas.”

    Dr. Langer cautions us, “To be mindless is to be trapped in a rigid world”; and thus my real concern.  From the beginning, specifically since September 11, 2001, Mr. Bush stated, “War is my absolute last option.”  Yet, I wonder.  I ask.  If war is an option, an idea, or a possibility cemented in ones mind, does it not gain momentum?  Does it not become a reality, one that when expressed often enough is ultimately shared?

    Might this reflection be the lesson that we have yet to learn from the past?  As long as we believe war is an option, do we not continue to contemplate it, to pursue it, and ultimately to create it?  Is this not the cause for conflict?  If we were to release ourselves from this belief, if we were to eliminate this category from our minds, might we never observe another day that memorializes our fallen war heroes?  Might we begin to actively honor peace?  My hope is that soon, some day very soon, Memorial Day will not honor the passing of lives, but instead honor a long ago past, one that will never be repeated.

    Armando of Daily Kos shares his reflections on Memorial Day

    AlterNet, The Silent Media Curse of Memorial Day By  Norman Solomon is another good read.

    The Silent Press © [Part Three In An Unintended Series]

    It was a day, just like any and all others days are in this God forsaken place; yet, God was all around us.  There were many Gods, many interpretations of God, yet none were bringing love or peace.  There were noises, loud noises, all around me.  At times, piercing sounds would slice through the air; they were loud enough to burst an eardrum.  There was never a truly quiet moment, noise was a constant companion.  It was also an enemy, my enemy.

    The constant barrage of blasting bullets and bombs caused many a sleepless night.  There were children crying, parents screaming, and there were soldiers.  They too made sounds, none of them good or comforting.

    Then in a wink of an eye, it happened; I felt hot and sleepy.  I had been standing, keeping watch.  A muffled hum wised past my ear.  I wondered, what was that?’  I saw nothing.  I felt a sensation; it was warm and wet.  I looked down and then, I knew.  Cold steel had entered my soft and supple flesh.  It pierced through tissue, bone, and organs.  Blood was flowing everywhere.  I felt faint.  I was hit!

    There was shrapnel all about, on my clothes, on the ground, and in my body.  Glass cut my throat, my hands, and my chest; the penetrations were deep.  I could no longer look; I could no longer breathe.  I fell into a deep, deep, sleep.

    No photographs were taken or none were published.  The press, and the President feared repercussions from my parents, friends, family, and from fellow citizens.  They all wanted to be proud of their son [or daughter], their soldiers.  Each wanted to remember me as I was.  They wished for no words or photographs of war, at least not those of the “good guys” wounded or killed.  They were only willing to see, hear, or read of death, when it was that of their enemies.

    Saturday, May 21, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published a thoughtful piece titled, Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories, by James Rainey.  The subheading, “U.S. newspapers and magazines print few photos of American dead and wounded, a Times review finds.  The reasons are many — access, logistics, ethics — but the result is an obscured view of the cost of war.”

    Much of what I wrote in two earlier essays, Support Our Troops Tentatively! ©, and Still Tentative Support; Photographs Of The Fallen © is addressed in this article.  I found it a brilliant piece and thought that I would share it here with you.

    While it may be true that, “a picture is worth a thousand words” I hope that my introduction will evoke some of what those unseen photographs might.  My hope is that we will all consider the cost of war, not only in dollars, but also the cost of lost lives, limbs, and loved ones.

    Here I offer an opportunity to view photographs and hear a report from the Los Angeles Times.

    Please visit Operation Truth and view photographs taken by our troops in Iraq.

    Kos is also speaking of the Unseen and Untold, Censoring torture stories doesn’t help the troops as is Plutonium Page See No Evil.

    Tillman Tale Tells Truth of Pentagon ©

    Pat Tillman, the patriot, left a lucrative career to serve his country. His brother joined him; they each enlisted in the Army and served as Rangers. The brothers wanted to participate, to express their love of country; they chose to protect and defend and to do so with honor. They were stationed in Afghanistan; they were actively supporting this nation. However, there is reason to believe that this nation did not fully support them.

    They, the Army, knew within days, though they chose not to tell the tale of “gross negligence.” While investigating the death of former National Football League player, Pat Tillman, Army investigators quickly discovered that “friendly fire” was the cause of his death. Army officials realized that fellow Rangers killed the famous serviceman. However, they did not disclose this truth; they destroyed it. Officers did not tell the Tillman family or friends what really happened. They intentionally led the public astray for they feared retribution. They waited; they waited for weeks.

    The Pentagon and Whitehouse promoted the Tillman passing; ceremonies were televised. It was, it is, a great story.

    The nation honored the life and passing of a great man. Yet, the true tale was not told until later. Those in power dreaded a candid accounting, what might it mean for the “war effort.”

    Soldiers on the scene knew and said so immediately. According to a 2000 page report, Tillman “was killed by a barrage of American bullets as he took shelter behind a large boulder during a twilight firefight.” Nonetheless, officials did not deliver the truth. Instead, erroneous information was released, the facts deliberately suppressed. “Critical evidence” was destroyed!

    Army officers concealed the facts from Tillman’s brother who was also serving as an Army Ranger. Tillman’s brother was nearby during the attack, though he did not witness it. Paul Boyce, an Army official stated, “Notifying families in a timely way that they have had a loved one killed or severely injured is complex and imperfect work. We can do better." The telling is complex. It affects more than friends and family; it affects public support.

    If we, the people knew the truth of war, particularly of this war, would we support our President, our Pentagon, or the “theoretical” cause for all this killing?

    Still Tentative Support; Photographs Of The Fallen ©

    Early in April 2005, I wrote of how we tentatively support our troops.  I shared the odd ways in which we honor those that we love.  I questioned Department of Defense policies.  The Pentagon does not accurately report the actual number of war casualties.  “Casualties” are considered persons that are “hurt directly by the bullets and the bombs of the enemy.”  If an ally wounds a soldier, if a soldier is injured in an accident, or if a serviceperson hurts him/herself, s/he is not “counted’ as a casualty!

    I wrote of how the government fears losing support for the war effort.  They do not wish to expose the truth of our conflicts.  They fear the “Dover test.”  When our war wounded and fallen soldiers are flown back into the States, they arrive at Air Force Bases, such as, Dover.  When citizens see images of these, when they are forced to face the reality of war, they often withdraw their support.  It is difficult to tolerate the loss of young lives.  Equally troublesome is the loss of an eye or a limb; the cruelty of war-imposed pain is not a welcome sight.  Therefore, our government has chosen to screen what we see; they want us to feel good about our wars.

    However, on April 2004 photographs of flag-draped American coffins were taken.  These were acquired illegally and yet they found their way into the public forum.  The Whitehouse was livid.  Nonetheless, the images survived.  In my earlier discussion of the Dover test, I did post these ill-gotten photographs.

    Now, on April 28, 2005, I discover others questioning and actively conquering military conventions, and more pictures.  After an extensive legal battle, the Pentagon was forced to reveal 360 photographs of United States soldiers killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts.

    National Public Radio offers audio coverage of the story and a Gallery of photographs for viewing.
    “Photos of Caskets Bearing War Dead Released”, April 29, 2005.

    Delawareonline.com also bestows complete coverage, photographs, an article, and video.

    Those that advocate an open government requested these images under the Freedom of Information Act.  Professor Ralph Begleiter, former CNN correspondent, and now faculty lecturer in the Communications Department at the University of Delaware, led the call.  Ultimately, under great pressure, the Defense Department made these images available.

    These newly released photographs were acquired legally; military photographers took them.  However, these images were not meant for public viewing.  They were taken to document the historic return of our troops.

    As of this week, citizens will be able to view hundreds of legal photographs that represent the effects of war.  All of these photographs show the flag-draped caskets of American troops.  In some images, soldiers are carrying coffins, in others saluting the caskets of our fallen.  A few show soldiers putting coffins onto military cargo aircraft, and then there were those that show them taking them off.  The Dover test is in progress.  Will Americans still support the war after seeing image upon image of their fallen youth?

    Though the images were made public, the Department of Defense chose to place black markings on the faces of the fallen.  They decided that showing the faces of our troops was not warranted.  They considered the blackening of soldiers’ faces “a show of honor.”  However, I wonder.  Again, I am prompted to ask, “Is this the way we honor our troops?”

    When will we pay tribute to our wounded soldiers?  At what point will we acknowledge their presence and their plight?  Will we ever bring them back during the light of day and let the nation see their faces?  What will have to transpire before we count our casualties in full?  When will the Pentagon stop “playing” with the numbers, playing with war?  War is not a game!

    Please visit my earlier writing and consider the ways in which we do not honor the troops that we say we support.
    Support Our Troops Tentatively! ©

    As mentioned in my previous post Operation Truth helps to honor what is.  This organization actively supports our troops.  You may wish to visit them.

    Support Our Troops, Tentatively ©

    We, Americans, speak of loving our troops, supporting our soldiers and yet we demonstrate this in the oddest of ways. Recently, on April 1, 2005, I was listening to what I wish were an April “Fool’s Day” ruse. Sadly, it was not. I was tuned into On the Media, a National Public Radio program. The topic was “Wounded in Abstraction.” Radio host Brook Gladstone was interviewing Salon correspondent, Mark Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has followed the injured soldiers, listened to their stories, and observed their stresses.

    He has written much on the subject. During this discourse, he spoke of the Pentagon, its practices, policies, and the manner in which it calculates war casualties. He offered that the numbers are “deceptively low” and he explained why this is.

    Reporter Benjamin shared that the Pentagon selectively defines the term “casualties.” Casualties are only persons that are “hurt directly by the bullets and the bombs of the enemy.” If an ally wounds a soldier, if s/he is injured in an automobile accident, if a combatant commits suicide, or is s/he is impaired accidentally, then s/he is not considered a casualty of war.

    In “The Invisible Wounded,” a Salon.com piece published on March 8, 2005, journalist Benjamin wrote of a January 2000 warning. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Henry Shelton, while speaking to a Harvard audience, cautioned politicians. He offered that they “must weigh military actions,” and be certain that the public is “prepared for the sight of our most precious resource coming home in flag-draped caskets.” The General spoke of the "Dover test.”

    You may recall that recently, in April 2004, there was a scandal; photographs of our fallen soldiers were released. Images of flag-draped caskets were revealed publicly; they were captured “illegally.” People were astonished and alarmed to see these coffins. There were so many, so many young soldiers whose lives were lost. How could this be? A year earlier, on May 1, 2003, President Bush told us that the war had ended; yet, American soldiers are arriving home in coffins.

    Possibly, you know that our fallen American soldiers are regularly flown into Air Force bases such as Dover. They arrive in coffins covered with the American flag. Whether the American public can tolerate seeing this practice is the test, the Dover Test.

    The Whitehouse has long known that support for Operation Enduring Freedom was fragile and the Administration feared lessening the little support that they had. Therefore, they banned the photographing of soldiers’ caskets. They feared that the American people would not support the war effort if the stark reality of our young soldiers’ deaths were so publicly displayed. The Administration has reason to believe that informed citizens protest and revolt against war. Vietnam is the evidence.

    The Pentagon and persons in the Executive Office knew that if the public were to continually see photographs of what is war, if they were to witness the daily devastation, if they saw young soldier losing limbs and eyes, if they saw the badly burned bodies of their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, then support would wane. It is for this reason that the Bush Whitehouse chose to impose the same strategy for the injured as they had for the fallen.

    It is for this reason that wounded soldiers are flown in during the dark of night. Capturing these images is forbidden. In his recent writing, Mark Benjamin notes, “Since 9/11, the Pentagon’s Transportation Command has medevaced 24,772 patients from battlefields, mostly from Iraq.” However, this is not the number released to the public. We, the people, are told that there are far less. Only half of these numbers are widely reported. Now, more than two years after the invasion of Iraq, we know little of the wounded, and thus Mr. Benjamin chose to share their story.

    There are other stories as well. There are the tales of suicide. In October 2003, Gregg Zoroya, of USA TODAY wrote, “Army probes soldier suicides.” At the time, the Army arranged for a team of doctors to investigate the cause; the Navy also expressed alarm; it seems that the rate of soldier suicides in Iraq is greater than that of past wars. Why might our troops take their own lives? Might the long deployments cause depression? Might the stop-loss orders bring troops a sense of hopelessness? Could the stress of combat cause soldiers to consider suicide? Might it be all of these reasons and more? There is much concern, though little reporting. When talk of suicide does surface, it is quickly swept aside.

    At times, we hear talk of recruiting. The numbers of recruits are steadily falling in everybranch of the service. During the recent Presidential campaign there was some discussion of stop loss orders, and a possible renewal of the draft; however, this too was soon quelled. This issue could also threaten the security of the war effort, and we do want to support our troops. Nonetheless, issues such as these cause anxiety; our soldiers and those that love them are concerned.

    Fortunately, there are those that do wish to discuss these topics. Operation Truth is cognizant of the “Issues Facing Our Troops.” They site the plight of the National Guard and Reserve units. They state that these servicemen and women have long been considered mediocre at best. They are not trained as well as their counterparts, nor are they equally equipped. Yet, though the estimates vary, a large percentage of our active troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait are National Guardsmen and Reservists. According to the Center for American Progress there are 55,000 deployed in the Persian Gulf region, 10,000 of these have been affected by the Stop Loss policies.

    Jonathon Turly of USA Today, CBS News, Military.com, and other sources refer to the lack of armor for man and machine; body shields are scarce and metal coverings for Humvees are scant. Radios and bullets are in short supply.

    The tension of war, its affect on our soldiers and their families, is great. Sadly, the Pentagon does not the focus on counseling. On February 17, 2005, National Public Broadcasting presented, “Criticism on Postwar Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder [PTSD.]” This piece presented interesting information; Congressional investigators observe that the combat veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be receiving adequate care and counseling for PTSD. The General Office of Accounting notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not actively consider this a priority. Many more troops are facing the plight of PTSD than ever before. Although a special panel of advisors was established to study this problem, their recommendations are being ignored.

    When a soldier does admit to psychological problems and asks for assistance s/he is often shunned. While the military claims to be making “great strides in improving mental health care and lessening [the] stigma for those seeking help for combat stress” often, this is not the case. On March 31, 2005, Eric Westervelt of All Things Considered aired this story, “Soldier Says Army Ignored His Mental Health Concerns.” A soldier willing to risk the ridicule that he might receive from his fellow comrades spoke of his stress, asked for help, and then, after a short time was returned to the frontlines. His wife, “Dawn Marie Beals says her husband, Army Specialist David Beals, was sent back to Iraq before he was mentally ready.”

    Our troops face much; yet, we do not speak of it. We do not see it; we rarely read of it. We say that we support our soldiers, and yet our support seems so tentative.

    Post Script . . . Posthumously we praise; on April 4, 2005, President Bush awards a fallen soldier is the Medal of Honor.  Sergeant first Class Paul Smith receives a formal tribute from his nation.  While this occurs two years after his passing and he was no longer alive to realize his reward, this soldier was given the nation’s highest military award.  He did as many servicemen and women have done, he helped his fellow troops to evacuate, and fend off an attack.  In doing so, he was mortally wounded.  Now, he is acknowledged in an open forum held at the Whitehouse.  Photographs are taken.  All of the media is encouraged to air this story, however, sadly, the badge of courage and the coverage come only long after the fact.

    Ode To The Troops That We Love, Honor, and Support ©

    How do we love you?
    Let me count the ways.
    We give you “life,” love, liberty, and help you to learn.
    We tell you of love, of our love for you.
    We show our love, showering you with all that we are able.
    We speak of loving all, equally.
    We teach you to love your neighbor, love your country, and to never covet.
    We edify honor, a reverence for life.
    Then we train you to eradicate, eliminate, and to execute the enemy, our enemy, and those we say are yours.
    If you are hurt, we do not honor you sufficiently.
    We do not speak of your wounds.
    We do not adequately treat your injuries.
    Possibly, we will not even count you as a casualty.
    After all, you and your hurts are only “collateral damage.”
    We will not reward you well for your services.
    We may not grant you leave.
    We might not effectively provide for your survivors.
    However, we support you, for you are our troops.
    You deliver our triumph and we commend you,
    At least through our words.
    Our deeds? These may be our undoing.
    Therefore, we do these in the dark.

    Please consider Casualties in Iraq, The Human Cost of Occupation

    Time marches on and soldiers continue to fall silently.  On June 7, 2005, paradox offered a post that is beyond brilliant.  Please visit This is Our Country