Thursday, May 14, 2009

Soldier's Health: Why I hate War

I'm sure most of you have heard about the recent tragedy in Iraq, were a soldier shot and killed 5 of his fellow soldiers. The soldier was being treated at a Stress Clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. He'd been involved in a altercation earlier in the day, was relieved of his weapon and sent back to his housing. He returned later that day with another weapon, and shot 8 people, killing 5.

This subject is very hard for me to talk about. And let me get some straight right away. I'm not in the armed services, and I have never been in the armed services. I've never been to war, and I can't imagine how I would handle it if I was.

That being said, I was married to a service member who saw more then his share of war. I housed, feed and comforted countless soldiers during our marriage; some of whom came and went quickly, and many who became like family. We had a core group of boys (and I say boys because that's exactly what they were) who came to our house for various reason and never really left. I jokingly called them my Lost Boys, because I felt a lot like Wendy in Peter Pan. I was suddenly playing mother to a handful of kids, when I wasn't much older then them to start with.

With my ex's last deployment in 2006, my felt like my heart broke into tiny pieces and each of "My Boys" took a bit with them. They really were my family. At the end of a 16 month deployment, I had attended funerals, held crying wives, mothers and girlfriends. Not all of the pieces of my heart came home, and they never will.

Even the ones who returned were different. It's like they left as puppies; excited, not quite grown, but willing to do what they should. They came home scared, scrappy pound dogs. Some did well, continued in army and got over the things they had seen and done. Some never did.

One of 'my boys' was one that never got better. While on patrol in August of 2007 (2 months after they should have returned home, but they were extended for the "Surge") he and his units were clearing homes, and upon entering one of the houses, and trip wire was hit. The house was demolished, and 5 amazing men lost their lives. My friend never could come to terms with what happened. He struggled constantly with the fact that his friend Kareem, a Muslim from New Jersey who dreamed off being a doctor, had taken his place at the last second when my friend's show has come untied. He had good days and bad days, and not long after his return home was quoted by a newspaper as saying "I know they would want me to get on with my life," he said. "Just like I'd want them to get on with their lives if it had happened to me."

In the end he couldn't and on August 6th of last year, the 1 year anniversary of that fateful day, he killed himself at his home.

My ex-husband had already done 2 deployments, the last in 2006 was his third total, his second to Iraq. When he came home he was moody, depressed and very aggressive. I won't go into the horror stories, but it wasn't pretty. The constant mood swings, anger and fear took an incredible toll on our marriage. Our marriage wasn't on super solid ground to start with, and after an incident involving our son, I left him.

I went to his unit, talked to every doctor I could, and even after some extreme behavior by him, no one did anything more for him then the barest of minimums. They were happier to shove every incident under the rug and call it a day.

Obviously these are both fairly extreme cases, but I've seen some amount of these symptoms in pretty much every service member I know. I'm terrified for my friends and family in the service, and I wish there was something more to be done. It seems they are being used like racehorses, run and run and run and when they show signs of fatigue they are sent to the glue factory. The same unit of boys I know is being deployed again this summer. For many of them, this is now their second and third deployments.

I've seen so many people, lives and families torn to pieces from the inside out that it kills me a little everyday.

I don't know if this will even mean anything to anyone, but I had to get it off my chest.


  1. That is a sensitive post, and it was kind of you to do what you could for the men who came to your house.

    Every individual has to deal with his experiences on his own, and find some way to coexist with what they experienced. Most men prefer to keep those experiences to themselves. That's how it is, whether it's "good" for you or not.

  2. I could not disagree more with Anon. 6:17.

    The reactions to serving under fire are entirely understandable and understood. The fact that tight budgets prevent dealing with the returning soldier faithfully is even more shameful than turning emotionally disturbed people onto the streets rather than fund care centers (the Reagan administration's shameful policy).

    While each returning soldier has to deal with his or her own experiences and memories, as a nation I feel we must hold the Army and veteran services responsible for the emotional rehabilitation that isn't being provided today.

    Responsible support and effort could be doing a lot to reduce the suffering and turmoil of service member and veteran families. Certainly service for our country deserves no less.

    Maggie, I think the issues faced by returning service people requires a certain amount of retraining, which requires someone in a position of authority - authority that combat veterans would recognize - to take charge of the situation. All you or I could do would be to offer comfort and support - and wish the afflicted one to find a way out of the quagmire on their own. And that is totally unfair to friends and loved ones, and inappropriate of those that sent them in harm's way.

    Thanks for a moving post. And, yes, I did just write my Senator.

  3. It's a free country. Disagree away.

  4. Your post is moving. The analogy about the race horses and the glue factory, in my opinion, is very accurate. War sucks.

    For my part I will continue to insist with my elected officials that they uphold their oath of office, and declare war before sending troops overseas.

    Perhaps some day they will get it.


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