|This picture was one my ex husband took while in Iraq. According to him, that black cloud was the result of a VBID (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) that was detonated killing many American troops. He recalled that he could feel the ground shake from the explosion miles and miles away while he was "safely" tucked behind the walls of his FOB. I believe after the fact, he was recalled on mission to the scene of the explosion.|
With the latest news out of Afghanistan about an Army SSG going on a bloody rampage through the local villages, I'm once again reminded of the cost of war.
After this story first broke, I found myself in conversation with several of my milspouse friends on the issue. We were all clear on several things but the main point being not enough is being done to help our guys when they return home. Period.
Since the story broke, we have learned that the soldier accused was allegedly diagnosed with a "minor" TBI, was on his FOURTH deployment, and had resisted deploying again in the first place. Supposedly these issues were addressed with his command and he was deemed fit for duty. From my experience, these guys come home and are put through a ridiculously lame excuse for a mental and physical exam and passed right on through. It's almost as if the Army uses it as a "See, we're doing the right thing" move instead of using it for it's real purpose. On top of that, it takes time for the effects of PTSD to show. A month or two sometimes doesn't cut it. I remember starting the process of fighting for my ex husbands diagnosis. I went through every inch of his medical records in complete shock at the questionnaire they had him complete. "Have you seen a dead body?" "Have you been fired upon?" "Have you discharged your weapon?" "Were you exposed to dangerous chemical warfare agents?" Can you imagine being asked these questions as a civilian? For our guys in uniform who have served our country in a war zone, this is a normal thing.
I remember M showing me a DVD the guys made over there. Some parts humorous, some parts typical guy stuff, some parts fascinating, some parts bloody and gory. I think I became somewhat de-sensitized to it knowing it was common occurrence for him over there. If we saw fingers blown to bits, gaping holes in the back of people's heads, and mangled bodies laying in a pool of blood here in America, we'd be horrified. The military teaches our guys to accept this as common reality. From what I understand, they can prep you all they want but until you actually see it first hand, nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing.
Some of the hardest parts are the children. The enemy often uses them as shields, as human bomb carriers, as "friendly" disguises to trick our troops. M told me another story about how soccer balls are often used as peace keeping items with the kids and their parents. They would often times go around handing them out in local villages and part of their diplomacy work was to build soccer fields. On one occasion, a child threw or kicked a soccer ball to one of the soldiers and it blew up upon impact. If I remember correctly, this soldier died of his wounds. Other stories I've heard include children who are pushed in front of rolling convoys in an effort to stop the troops in their tracks to allow for an ambush. The thing is they can't stop. They have to keep going. Killing children in the process. This is unimaginable to us but is real life for our guys in uniform. Having to live with that action, that vision is purely unreal. M would always remind me "It was either me or them." On top of that, can you imagine witnessing one of your friends killed instantly standing beside you? You lived, but he didn't. This is reality. This is what can cause incidents like what happened in Afghanistan to happen. It has since come out also that the day before this SSG went on his rampage, one of the guys in his unit was blown up and he allegedly witnessed it. How can you not feel anger towards the enemy for this? It doesn't make it right, but I can completely understand how this happens.
Can you honestly blame our service members for coming back mentally destroyed? On top of that, remembering DAILY what they saw and the things they had to do, while everyone else acts as if nothing happened at all.
Not only have lives been lost but unfortunately lives will continue to be lost. Marriages are broken. Lives are completely destroyed. Children are forced to go on without their parents. Young wives become war widows. In e-mails I exchanged recently back and forth with another "former milspouse," we both agreed we felt that we loved and supported our military, believed in the cause, but were also very angry feeling that our marriages were a casualty of the war. For me, it's a roller coaster of thoughts and feelings. In one sense, the war brought us together and in the same token, it ripped us apart. Sometimes, I wish like HELL I could erase this entire war from my memory. All of it. Starting with 2003 when I was sitting in our spring break hotel during my senior year of high school, watching Bush tell us we were at war. I had NO idea back then how that announcement would impact my world so many years later.
It's incredible to me to think there are children who were born in the past 10 years and all they've known is a nation at war. I almost can't even remember what it feels like to not be at war. One thing is for certain, this war may come to a close in time, but the war will never end for many, many of our veterans and their families. A vet posted on a friends' FB status the other day that he never truly left Vietnam. He's still there every single day of his life. This is exactly how I described my ex husband. He came back, but he truly didn't.
I hope and pray a change will come. I pray someday soon our service members, their families, and our veterans get the care they so desperately need and deserve. So many are fighting but it's not happening fast enough. Tragedies like this will continue to occur until something changes. How can we allow this to go on?
Please pray for SSG Bales, his family, and for all of our guys in Afghanistan. They need it now more than ever.