Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Price of Being A U.S. Soldier

Last week on Frontline, there was a documentary called, "The Wounded Platoon". It told the stories of several soldiers from the 3rd Platoon, Charley Company, Fort Carson, Colorado and what has happaned to them and others in the aftermath of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. As if the statistics regarding divorce, suicide, murder, PTSD, TBI and killing of both comrades and foreign civilians weren't horrifying enough, as each young man's story unfolded, the hopelessness in their eyes and voices was almost unbearable to see and listen to. The program is available from PBS.org/frontline and I think every citizen should make an effort to watch it. War is never pretty, so why do we still insist on engaging in them?
I have been called a bleeding heart liberal many times in my life and it is a label I'm proud to carry! It seems to me that our country is about the most blood-thirsty in the world. The young men in this film are and were someone's son, brother, husband, father, grandson. Surely the families of these young men didn't think that serving their country in the military would turn them into what they have become. The military trained them to kill, kept them in the military theater for extended tours knowing it was breaking their bodies and minds. Then they gave them psychotropic medication to keep them in the war zone, sleeping pills to chase away the symptoms of PTSD and finally, when they were to broken to do their jobs, cast them out with a less than honorable discharge. No support, no counseling, no disability, just back to the streets where they lived to fend for themselves and their wounded spirits. It should come as no surprise that these poor broken young men ended up doing terrible things. However, I can't keep myself from believing that they are not solely to blame for what they did. From the President of the United States, to the Pentagon officials, to the Congress, to the war profiteers, all the way down the chain of command to their platoon officers, each of these are responsible for what happened to these young men and for the crimes committed by them. There is plenty of blame to be shared by them. If you take the time to watch this documentary, I'm willing to bet you'll agree with me. No one should ever have to endure the conditions they did in service of a country they are a citizen of.
We need to find a way of dealing with other countries with respect and diplomacy. The United States has become so soaked in the blood of the innocent people it has murdered in the name of patriotism and national security. We need to do as we say, not as we do. Peace can only be achieved by understanding and compromise, it will never be achieved by becoming worse than any terrorist who ever lived. We have more to fear from the deadly actions of our own government than from Bin Laden or others like him. Our own bloodlust will be what finally brings down our country, we have lost our souls!
I had hoped that a new administration would see that wars are sucking the life out of America, but no. The young men in this documentary are collateral damage in our countries race to doom. They, and we, deserve better. Wake up, America!

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