HEY, do you REALLY support the troops?

cross posted from DailyKos diary of Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 06:58:43 PM EST

http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

Wouldn’t have posted two in a row on my first day here except it was myself I pushed down the line of diaries-:)

“Do you support the troops?”  I thought it was a simple yes-or-no question when I asked it in a DKos open thread.  The first five responders said yes, and a couple of them seemed baffled as to how I could even ask this and added, “Of course!”  Then I got the following comment.

What do you mean by support?  Do we value their lives, and believe those lives should not be lost in a futile and unjustified war?  Sure, of course.  But “support” – what do you mean?  It’s such a right-wing talking point, who does or does not “support the troops.”  Too many right-wingers believe that they “support” the troops by supporting the agenda of the war – as if, per the Tinker bell [sic] theory, if only every American believed in the Iraq war, then we would certainly win it and the troops could come home.  I also quibble with whether “support the troops” is supposed equate [sic] with “support the acts and conduct” of the troops in Iraq.

Thus, here we are with a diary in which I can explain my “simple” question.  I’ll explain, based on the thoughts of current and former Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers, and on my military experience (non-combat) from 1979 to 1982, what soldiers and veterans themselves think “supporting the troops” really means.

This diary is primarily for these readers:  1) those who would say “Of course!” without really analyzing what this means,  2) those who feel the same as the individual quoted above, 3) anyone who is not sure of their support for the troops, and 4) anyone who does not support the troops but feels open-minded on the subject.

Look for the poll at the end that reflects these points of view.

For the record, I am against the war in Iraq. I believe Bushco’s decision to invade Iraq will be seen by future generations as one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our nation. I want the troops out of Iraq ASAP. I do not believe it is possible to win the war in Iraq. I denounce any torture. I believe Guantanamo should be closed. I believe what happened at Abu Ghraib was an atrocity, including the fact that the lower ranking individuals were too harshly punished and the higher-ups who ordered those types of torture–specifically outlined in selectively disseminated manuals–should have been punished. I loathe Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove. I will vote only for whoever is the Democratic nominee for POTUS in 2008.

That said–“Do You Really Support the Troops?

We can empathize, and imagine being in another’s shoes. We believe we know how we’d react in theoretical circumstances. But in reality it is impossible to know what we would do until we are actually confronted with the specific situation. Some deep, emotional, life-changing and unique experiences of any “group” absolutely can not be fully understood without having lived their experiences.

I am not African American so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be African American, and the prejudices, social, economic or life experiences of being African American. I am a recovering alcoholic (22 years sober on January 1, 2007). If you are not an alcoholic, it is impossible for you to fully understand this aspect of me. I am not gay, so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be gay, and the prejudices, social, economic or life experiences of being gay. I suffer from TBI (traumatic brain injury) and if you do not have this issue, it is impossible for you to fully understand what it is like for me. I am not a woman so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be a woman and vice versus.

You get my point. These are all multi-faceted issues. No matter how we think we would handle our lives, if we don’t have those experiences there is absolutely no way for any of us to truly know how we would react, behave, or perceive life. We do not know what decisions we would or would not make as a result.  

I have one more. If you have never been in the military, it is impossible for you to fully understand those of us who have. If you have not been in a war, in combat, it is impossible for you to fully understand what it is like for those who have. Although I understand so much of military life, I was not in combat; I accept my inability to truly understand that experience.

Now here are thoughts and feelings of a man who is currently serving our nation in Iraq.

It is my belief that a great deal of the American public believe that ALL military personnel WANT to be over here doing what we are doing. What they don’t understand is the old saying that “no one hates a war as much as a Soldier hates a war”. We are sent to do the dirty work for someone that is not willing to do it those selves. We didn’t ask for it, and never got a vote in it but we made a commitment to do it. Unfortunately the U.S. military is the only one at war. The rest of the government, and the country for that matter, are not really involved and that is the greatest shame of it all.

When I asked if I could use his comment; here is his revealing response.

Sir, please feel free to use my post if it will help get the true message out about how we feel over here and using my ID is fine as well if you need to. And please include the fact that the “overwhelming” majority of Captains and Majors I work around and with are of the same mind. I am not sure who the Congressmen speak to when they visit here but they would be surprised if they actually talked to someone that was not “handpicked” to give them the party line.

I could have done without the “Sir.” I worked for a living! 🙂 This is an old service joke; “Sir” is how we refer to commissioned officers; I was a sergeant, an NCO.

I sincerely appreciate this soldier’s honesty. He goes a long way in clarifying why service members join the military; there are purely personal reasons but for most there is an overriding sense of duty and loyalty to our country and to the Constitution. After 9/11 many enlistments were out of patriotism, a desire to protect our nation–you and I–from terrorists.

Whether or not you believe that terrorism is a threat to our nation, many of those who joined the military in the years after 9/11 believed with all their heart and soul that it was. Call them fools, call them naive, call them conned–the fact is they believed and therefore they truly had the most honorable, heroic, patriotic and noble of intentions. I believe were we all as willing to put our life on the line for our beliefs our nation would be far better off.

Now, try to imagine you believed as they did and you enlisted in the year or two after 9/11. You are in Iraq for a year and you realize this is a war we never should have started, a war we cannot win. We are in the middle of an Iraqi civil war. The Iraqi police, military and politicians are not stepping up to the plate. Here’s an assessment from a soldier in a position to know.

The “democratically” elected government of Iraq (GOI) is doing FAR more than dragging ass . . .  this is as close as I can get to the truth of it.  

There is a problem  

GOI asks us to fix the problem  

We tell them to fix it themselves, here is the money  

Problem remains unfixed  

We say we will fix the problem, give us the money back  

They give us 1/3 of the money back and say the rest was used

to think of a way to fix the problem  

We fix the problem with [more of] our own money  

There is a problem

Starting to get the picture? Things like this make me a real fan of “Baptism by Fire” for this “democratically” elected government.  As long as we keep doing for them, they have no reason to do it themselves.

The vast majority of your own nation is against this war. American politicians are using you for political gain on each side of the aisle. What do you do?

If you have not ever been in the military and you really believe you can answer this question without a doubt, you are simply fooling yourself. If you want to try to walk a mile in their boots, I will attempt to help you do so. You might learn what kind of boots they are wearing. . If you are open- minded, you might be able to discern the make of the boot. I myself haven’t had the experience, so you still won’t know the exact model boot. That is as close as my words can get you to “walking a mile in their boots”.

Remember, you raised your right hand to God and you swore this oath:

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Remember, you went through seven weeks to 12 weeks of basic training. You were brainwashed. You were broken down and rebuilt. The beliefs (patriotism, national security, defend our people) you already held, were driven deeper and deeper.

Remember, you have become like a brother, a sister, a father to ten, twenty, thirty or more men and women who have saved your life on several occasions, and you theirs.

Remember, you have shared with these brothers- and sisters-in-arms the deaths of others in your “family.” You saw some of your “family” blown into pieces by an explosion. You put their body parts in body bags. You put a tourniquet on your friend’s stump when his leg was blown off. You started her I.V. and tried initial life saving techniques. You sat next to him as he squeezed your hand and screamed in horrendous pain; you told her she was going to be all right even though you were not sure.

One night you had a few beers with one of your “best friends”, someone you knew you would keep in touch with the rest of your life, if you both survived this debacle! You laughed and joked and exchanged stories about stupid things you did at home when you were drunk. The next morning you were together in a Humvee making a routine patrol when you heard gunfire closer than usual. You turned to check your buddy, as always. You saw that most of his head had disappeared, like JFK’s in those final frames of Zapruder’s film.

Remember all that you have read since I asked that question, unanswerable for a non-combat veteran. What do you do? Consider your limited options. Still think you know for sure what you would do?

This, from the person who asked me what I meant by “support the troops,” sticks with me.

I also quibble with whether “support the troops” is supposed [sic] equate with “support the acts and conduct” of the troops in Iraq.

I wonder if this person believes that what he or she thinks his or her conduct would be in circumstances unimaginable in the worst nightmares. If this person is sure of that hypothetical conduct, if anyone is, that person is a fool.  

Have our troops accidentally shot innocent people? Yes. It has happened in every war and it will happen in every war in the future.

Have some of our troops been accidentally killed by “friendly fire”? Yes. It has happened in every war and it will happen in every war in the future.

Has some 19 year old kid shot into a house he was sure an enemy combatant was shooting from to kill him and when the house was cleared and he entered, to his horror, he saw a family of civilians lying dead on the floor of their home?. Yes, I am sure it has.

Will that 19 year old kid ever be the same? No, fuck no. Will he have nightmares and see those bodies on the floor for the rest of his life? Yes, fuck yes. Will that kid cry and weep and torture himself for thousands of days and even more nights. Yes, fuck yes. There are men in their sixties who forty years from such a horror still have nightmares and still weep at night, alone in the dark.

Will a disproportionate percentage of Iraq/Afghanistan vets become drug addicts, alcoholics, homeless, suicides, abusers, divorced, estanged from their kids? Yes. Fuck yes.

Will too fucking many return as amputees, blind in one eye, burned over 20%, 30%, 50% or more of their body, with TBI, with PTSD? Yes.

Do those in Iraq, in Afghanistan know all the facts above? Yes, probably 95%. Maybe more. Don’t believe me. Go to a VA hospital and talk to them.

Why do they still do it.? Because they are brave, honorable, men and women of their word who swore an oath. Yes. But by far the most driving force is the “wild card”–their loyalty to their fellow soldiers. They won’t leave their buddies. Some veterans have attempted to “fool” tests that could keep them from returning to battle. Not because they liked being in Iraq. Because their comrades are going to be returning there.

Another quote from a soldier currently in Iraq is below. We were talking about people expressing their respect and thanks to her for serving and this is her response to me.

For me I feel like it is all a lie, as in I am lying about being a soldier worth respecting, especially if someone says thanks “for protecting me,” my time in Iraq has nothing to do with anyone but me trying to keep my team and myself alive to come home.

The bold is of course by me. These are the words of a true military leader who is most deserving of our respect, yet she remains overly humble and even feels undeserving. This is the tremendous quality of the people you, I and our nation have putting their lives on the line for us.

To show this dichotomy in soldiers’ lives, I want to quote one of the greatest men whose life has ever blessed our nation. He was a military man.

“It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it.” George Washington

“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” George Washington

“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” George Washington

“War – An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will.” George Washington

Only discipline and conviction and loyalty to this man got his troops through the winter in Valley Forge. He championed the Constitution and democratic process, and maintaining military power. He believed all citizens should be involved in the defense of their freedoms. And this man knew what war really is, how violent it is.

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington

His FIRST WISH! A man who made his bones through war. A man who carved out the greatest nation on earth through war. Did he believe it possible? Definitely not. I also have this wish, yet I am a realist. The reality is that the world John Lennon described in “Imagine” is just NOT possible no matter how much we wish it were, or what we do.

* * *

The troops of Iraq and Afghanistan have earned the same respect, honor, and appreciation of our nation and our citizens that the troops of the Revolutionary War, WWI, and WWII received. Soldiers have always protected our safety, freedom of speech, liberty, and nation, performing difficult and ugly tasks so we could be saved from experiencing those horrors ourselves. Soldiers in those “other” wars served in the same way men and women of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are serving now. Support them by giving them what they deserve–respect, honor, and appreciation.

Realize that virtually none of them want to be there; realize that they have sworn that they will carry out any lawful order given them; realize that in the hearts and minds of these young men and women they have no choice but to follow the orders of their superiors. Respect their valor, honor, sense of duty; respect their adherence to the oath they swore, and their immense loyalty to the comrades with whom they must stand.

Support them by remembering the mistakes you made at 18, 19, 20 years old, when the only pressure or stress propelling you into those situations was self-imposed or peer pressure, added to your youthful stupidity. Support them by realizing they were as youthfully stupid as you were, and they have been through the “brainwash” of basic training.

They have sworn an oath and have seen horrendous things nobody should see and therefore should be forgiven some things you might think are terrible and that you think you would never do. I do not mean, in any part of this diary, torture or killing of innocents–just the normal, terrible activities of war. Realize the mental torture most struggle with daily about the acts they must commit because of the terrible position they have been placed in, and their struggle with the morality of those acts.

Vow not to sit in judgment of the majority due to the very few who have committed heinous acts such as torture, or killing innocents in complete and utter negligence or malice

Veterans suffer with PTSD today, 40+ years after last experiencing those events. PTSD can’t exist in someone who doesn’t care, or lacks morals, values, and standards, but most soldiers who see any length of combat will have some level of PTSD. Understand as well as we can that things happen in war that most of those involved wholeheartedly wish hadn’t happened, will regret the remainder of their life, and would do almost anything to take back–and that this has been true in every war.

Here is a heartfelt plea for support from a young soldier in Iraq.

I can truly say that if only people would remember . . . that we are human beings.  Yes, we made the decision to dedicate our lives to protecting the liberties and freedoms that all Americans enjoy instead of choosing the easier path of the corporate world. We decided to put our lives on the line so people can consider us “less than human” instead of taking a job where a mistake can only cost you that job and not your very life.  We made these choices and take our oath, and all we ask in return is to have all Americans realize that we are here.  We are living, sweating, fighting, and dying for the oath we take to our country.  They must realize that what they see on the news for 30 seconds and shake there head at is what we LIVE with for them.

. .  

* * *

How You Can Really Support the Troops?

Become interested enough in the issues they face to learn about them.

Read this link from a pro-military/anti-Iraq war website of veterans. It is about gays being kicked out of the military, many of whom are in very critical positions, and how most in the military do not agree with the policy that forced them out. http://www.iht.com/… Write, email, or call the government people you are able to in order to get this ludicrous policy changed, one which both people on the left and most in the military want stopped.

Read Brian McGough’s writings on http://www.broken-skull.com. He is the soldier that responded so eloquently and publicly to Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of “phony soldiers.”

Read these interesting views in an article by twelve veterans of Iraq who were Captains–several served more than one tour, many refused bonuses to stay in–and who are speaking out against the war.   – http://www.npr.org/…

Read an article, occasionally, by one of our troops “over there” on a site you would not ordinarily visit, like this one

http://armyofdude.blogspot.com

Seek out information about the terribly poor Veterans Administration care.

Read about increased processing times for Veterans Disability claims http://proctoringcongress.blog..

Read this about the military denying veterans with PTSD the benefits and treatment this injury entitles them to, by using the bogus diagnosis of pre-existing “personality disorder,” and handing them a dishonorable discharge along with an order to leave their base within ten days. This has happened to 22,000 soldiers, most of whom had been in combat.

http://ptsdcombat.blogspot.com…

Read this diary by ilona on DailyKos about PTSD and who to contact to get Veterans help with this mental illness not being funded well enough.

http://www.dailykos.com/…

and also her blog on PTSD

http://ptsdcombat.blogspot.com…

Please read this diary I wrote on DailyKos about the tremendous problem of Traumatic Brain Injury occuring with our combat troops. It is VERY important and I include many links. I will assume it will be read by those who wish from Docudharma and will NOT cross post this diary. “The silent epidemic & “signature” injury of the Iraq war”….

http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

You know what the VA needs–volunteers. Volunteering for three hours, one day a week, would make an immense impact.

Just go talk to them. An amputee, a soldier with PTSD, or Traumatic Brain Injury. Listen to someone with family issues, or someone who has no visitors.

Let them tell you what happened, and how they feel. Let them know they are appreciated.

Say to a soldier in uniform, “I appreciate your service”. Being appreciated they do like. Most have told me that is what they need to hear, instead of being thanked. If you really care, ask them how they are coping, but only if you really care. Diary by Vet about not wanting to be thanked.

http://www.vetvoice.com/…

Write a letter to a soldier, send a care package. If you can, donate to an organization that supports the troops. Here are some good ones:

http://www.swords-to-plowshare…

http://www.VoteVets.org

http://www.militaryspousesforc…

http://www.servicewomen.org

http://girightshotline.org

http://www.veteransforpeace.org

If the government were doing its job, there would not be a need for so many of these fine groups. Consider helping those that work to create policy and legislation to improve the way veterans are treated.

You say you really care about our troops. Book mark some of the above and check in once in a while. If you have looked at them you know they are not just for donations but also have a lot of information on Veterans issues.

Whenever any issue arises regarding our troops and our veterans, read about it, understand it, and when you see something unjust, support them by using all the political channels you use for your other “pet” issues to get things corrected for them.

DEMAND that they do something about the huge number of homeless vets.

http://www.nchv.org/…

DEMAND that they get the troops all the body armor and other equipment they need.

DEMAND that they improve VA facilities and care.

DEMAND that they increase funds for the study of TBI and care of those with TBI which 65% of combat Vets will have per The House Sub Committee on Veterans Health. Read my diary on TBI as mentioned above.

DEMAND the DOD stop this insanity of demanding signing bonuses back from wounded veterans because they didn’t finish their enlistment!

Most of all, support them by using the information you have learned and being politically active by writing, emailing, and calling all in the government that we need to write, email, and call in order to demand an end to the war in Iraq and to bring our troops home ASAP!

These are ways of supporting the troops. If you can’t/won’t do many of these, then you do not support our troops. If you don’t believe in war under any circumstances and therefore do not support our military in any circumstances, then answer poll as such but please explain to me how we would have our freedom and liberties without having had any war.

There are some who DEMAND freedom, rights, and safety, but won’t respect and support those who were willing to risk their lives believing that they would be protecting our nation. That war turned into a game of smoke and mirrors.

In our humble opinion if you REALLY support our troops you will read every link in this diary. Do it over a week, or a month, but be sure to do it!

Bushco is doing their best to screw up active duty and veterans needs as badly as they have everything else. The Democratic majority we elected in 2006 have done little to help it either.  Have no doubt about it, the President we elect in 2008 WILL be a war time President. The new administration’s position on these issues will still be tremendously important–or even more important–than they are right now.  

Just know, if this nation does not come together to demand help for our veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan, we will not have a viable military soon. We will have a  mass of homeless, mentally ill, suicidal, homicidal, broken, demoralized and walking wounded the likes of which this nation has never seen. Why, and the half dozen major factors that make this war unique in our history, I’ll be glad to share if you ask me–this diary is long enough!  

This diary was a collaboration between myself and “boadicaea”. She posts both here on Kos and on VetVoice. She is a Vet too. She worked in an intake processing office in the late sixties in New Mexico. Unfortunately, diaries can not be co-authored or this one would be. I write diaries with my disjointed, poor grammar, 1 or 2 foolish paragraphs that detract from the main point and are too lengthy. “boadicaea” then edits my jumble into a coherent diary. She also finds quality links for our diaries. Sometimes she slips a little change into my writing that lends a female view. She doesn’t think I notice but I do and it always improves it. She spends an equal amount of time doing her part as I do writing the main points of our diaries. Tips in the tip jar are equally for “boadicaea” as I. All negative comments are completely for her-:)  

   

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  1. I’m impressed.  This is quite a meaty essay.  Thanks to you and boadicaea for putting it all together!

  2. Now that gives me something to work with…I’ll catch up with you in a day or two and fill you in on the progress.

  3. or most of them and put them up on our Wiki.  This way I’ll be able to visit the list and promote them in my spare time and we’ll add in related information for the topic as we dig further into it.

    Anything that is up on the Wiki is subject to change or being moved to other pages.  We are still working on the overall format.  

    Anyone that is interested in helping right away may begin promoting the links, reading the stories and highlighting important ones on here and other blogs.

    Future stuff:

    One of my ideas for helping out is to develop a news portal just for vets issues, I have to do one for Docudharma anyway so I’ll work on both at the same time.

    I’d also supply the coding that would allow anyone to post the news feeds on their own sites and blogs.  Thereby generating a lot more hits and exposure to the sites linked through it.

    Every action we take now can make it that much easier on the returning Vets and it will be a lot easier to do now than after they come home.  That should be motivation enough to get involved and perhaps it would be a good theme to start with.

    Getting the top tiered bloggers to notice anything is an effort in and of itself.  But if we do all the groundwork and present the concept as a finished package it would take right off.

    What that package would entail is a good question.  If you had the resources to put together a meta group consisting of all subgroups of Veterans…What would you call it?  What would you include in it?  How soon would you like it?  etc.

    Think about and get back to me: thefuture at inbox.com

    Thanks for putting yourself out there.

  4. Vets were spat upon when they returned from their duty.  This time around it’s the government that is spitting on them.  The goal here is the dissolution of the regular US military in favor of the hired goons of blackwater.

    The antique concept that the military is somehow fighting for American “freedom” is just that, a concept of generations past.  Could I spare some time assisting people who have been conned?  Yes, I should but somehow I consider waking up the rest of the zombinals a higher priority.

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