Thursday, December 07, 2006

Go Tell the Spartans.......

I've been listening to NPR's "Talk of the Nation", which is examining allegations that the army has been "shit-canning" soldiers who display or claim symptoms of PTSD when they've returned from Iraq and begin to act out. This is an age-old problem that has haunted the army from day one. There is a "code" of the warrior in which there is a silent admonition that one either toughs it out (be a MAN, you fucking pussy) or you get tossed out, without the benefit of an honorable discharge or honestly for mental health reasons. It is ingrained in the leadership all the way down to the platoon level that the army hasn't got time to nurse maid pansies, which is what a man is if he can't take the horror and bloodshed that comes with combat. It's also in the Army's best interest to not have to pay benefits to ex-service members who are moved out for "failure to perform".

OK, yea, if this was Sparta, where one is raised from the get-go to be a warrior, I guess I could accept the idea that once your toy soldier is broken, you don't try and glue him back together, you just slit his throat and put him out of his misery. This is not Sparta. We aren't sending Spartans to Iraq. We are sending hormone driven, glory seeking patriotic American kids just out of high school to fight a war with enemies who blend in with the "civilians" when they are not to busy killing each other. Our God-fearing, moralistic society tries to instill in it's youth moral values, which do not include killing people, yet we expect to wipe out that conditioning, install new software, and send them out to do one job better than anybody...KILL.
Problem is, you have a hard time killing the right people at the right moment when you don't know who or where your target is or you just drove over a remote controlled bomb, the favored weapon of people who know they'll lose if they fight you on even terms, mano-o-mano. So, they manage to learn the nuances of surviving bizaro-world for an entire tour of duty and manage to return home with all their limbs, and now we expect them to clean their lockers with toothbrushes, do lots of paperwork, go home and eat dinner with the wife and kids, and not kill them. Yes, most can do this. Most of us can compartmentalize these things and function properly, although I haven't a clue as to why. I've had to learn to do it myself, both in the service and out here in the real world, if you can call a hospital the real world. However, I know damn well that for the grace of Bob go I. You put enough stress on someone, they WILL act out, and ignoring it by blaming them is NOT how you fix it.

Another thing you need to consider is that this is supposed to be an ALL-VOLUNTEER army. The first thing you tell these kids is that serving their country is NOT pretty, is NOT glorious, is NOT easy. Boot camp instructors need to evaluate these kids during and AFTER they have been through boot camp, and need to ask these kids AGAIN......are you cut out for this? Be DAMN sure this kid didn't come in and remain a slacker or on the edge of going buggy. Then, if it turns out that they aren't superhuman after all after a nightmare tour of crazy land, pull them out, give them treatment, and ask them if they want to remain a soldier. If they do, you suspend their tour for the duration of treatment , and start the clock again when they can return to duty. It's only fair. But at least you still have a soldier. If the treatment cannot return them to full fit duty, then you let them go, with our thanks. So what if you are convinced they are pulling the wool over your eyes just to get out? LET THEM! If this nation cannot field an army of warriors who WANT to be and are CAPABLE of doing the dirty work, then we have a hollow tiger, and that is NOT a good thing.

We took kids off the streets during the Nam conflict and threw them into hell. Then we sent them back onto the streets with NO thanks, NO support, and these veterans of that cluster-fuck are paying the price even to this day. The history of the veteran in this country, at least since WWII, is that those who serve their country are disposable fodder for the whims of politicians who are better at screwing things up then they are doing the right thing. We have a shameful legacy, and will continue to do so, until we face up to the truth that we are pathetic when it comes to giving a helping hand to those suffering from mental injury. If we continue to demonstrate that we just don't give a damn, you can kiss this idea of a volunteer army defending a free nation good-bye. Then we'll have to draft Senators sons, the Bush twins, and Paris Hilton, and suddenly PTSD will be a problem that gets attention.

You can read for yourself.HERE


Buffalo said...

Damn strong piece, bro.

War is going to mess with you regardless. The way we keep rotating them back is a freakin' sin. They don't have enough down time in the World to began to examine what is going on in their heads. Unless I have been wrong info, they have 3 months between tours.

I do know the military does some counseling when they get home. How much and how deep the counseling is I don't know.

While the VA has improved over the years they still have a long ways to go. For sure, they are no where near being what we vets were promised when we enlisted.

They tried to bet me into a PTSD program a few years back. Near as I could tell it consisted of being locked down in the VA, being fed a shit pot load of drugs, relive it all and then take your happy ass back on the street. I passed.

Excellent piece, Michael. Truly.

Let us forget the war, but never the warrior.

Kindness (disarms the difficult) said...

you are so on point the michael.

I had a a dear boyfriend who was a Vietnam Veteran. I used to take him to all his VA appts. He was 100% disabled with PTSD. They filled him full of drugs. He died in 2002. I miss him dearly. So sad now, tears are clouding my vision. Great blog. So glad I found you and buff.

Kindness (disarms the difficult) said...

Sorry for a second post, one last thing I want to say to all the Vietnam Vets, (my dear deceased boyfriend taught me this):

Welcome home. I love you all. More than you could ever know.

Footpad said...

/me raises the lighter in tribute!

You know my feelings on the subject.

Thank you for being direct, honest, and, well, yourself!


-- f

jules said...

Thanks Michael. You said with words what I thought in my heart when I heard this piece. And to ALL the vets, I, too, thank you.

darlingina said...

Fantastic post Michael. Very moving. Thank you for Your views and for helping me to more fully understand what our military men, women and families have to deal with.
Brightest Blessings,