Thursday, July 1, 2010

For Whom the War Wages

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an article in Huffington Post today regarding a living veteran of our current wars who is being considered for the nation's highest military honor: the Congressional Medal of Honor. The young soldier's name was not revealed, but his (or her) heroic exploits were. He (or she) certainly sounds like a deserving individual for this great honor.

There have been six other Medal of Honor recipients from the current wars - and all were awarded posthumously. The current individual under consideration would be the first living recipient of the honor since Vietnam.

I am an army veteran, and though I never served in a conflict or war zone, I have nothing but respect for those who have done so. I am also cognizant of the arguments that brought us into the current wars, and know that their connection to the attack on the World Trade Center is tenuous at best. One of our motives was to secure access to Middle Eastern oil fields, and another was apparently to let Junior Bush show his daddy that he could do something that daddy had failed to do - topple Saddam Hussein (although Saddam had diddly-squat to do with the attack on the Twin Towers).

And, an overriding impetus for war - any and all wars - is to feed the Military Industrial Complex (MIC), something that President Eisenhower (Five-star General of the Army Eisenhower) told us to beware of half a century ago.

Today after reading the piece on the potential Medal of Honor recipient, I also read some of the public comments that had been submitted in response to the article. One, by a person identified as PharmaCan impressed me as a very cogent argument on why nations go to war. He (or she) also pointed out the bad business of opening the treasury to the Military Industrial Complex, yet under-funding health care for the veterans of our wars. PharmaCan did a very nice job of highlighting the hypocrisy of how we treat the members and past members of our military - and who actually profits from war. Here are those remarks:

Sadly, the brave soldiers who are dying in Afghanistan are not gallantly giving their lives for their country, they are dying to feed the profits of the MIC.

I'll not say anything critical of the brave young men and women who are fighting and dying there. They probably believe that they are indeed fighting for their country. But dead is dead, as far as each individual casualty goes, and all those that died or were wounded surely felt that they were fighting for a cause much greater than themselves.

When you take the criteria, "Requirements include great personal danger and volunteering to take an action that no one could be critical of if that action wasn't taken.", since we have an all volunteer military, wouldn't that describe every single one of our children who are fighting in that god-forsaken debacle?

It's time to recognize this latest MIC profit center for what it is and bring our brave soldiers home. It is well past time that we start taking better care of those veterans who have been wounded, both physically and mentally, in all of our ill-begotten military campaigns of the last 50 years. All the medals in the word will not erase the shame we should feel for the atrocious way we treat our wounded veterans. It is disgraceful that we can spend trillions of dollars on programs that enrich the MIC, but are pikers when it comes to taking care of those brave soldiers who sacrifice so much.

Let's take proper care of those who take care of us.


A Missouri Woman you know said...

I realize this is almost a different issue, but I think the military owes something monetary to all the young women who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict. Imagine our surprise, after basic training, to find out that our major purpose (as new recruits in the U.S. Army, Private E-1 to E-2) to find out that our main purpose was not the support the war effort, but to serve the needs of non-commissioned officers (Spec 4, E-4 and above).
We were told that the Enlisted Men's club, where young and mostly single males hung out after duty, was off limits. We were forced to either stay in our barracks, go off base (when we had little money to do so) or go to the club where the non-commissioned officers went. The clubs, during this time, served as a meeting place and networking venue, as well as food and alcohol and music for the men and women who went. The problem with this was, most of the non-coms were married and older. They had more money to spend, and usually had cars. Of course we were going to hang out with them. It was a given.
But it contributed to many a tragedy in these women's lives. It was wrong, and it was bad policy, and these women should be paid for their off duty services; now is better than never.

The same woman said said...

Also, (I had to add this) the ones who were single, the non-coms, were usually divorced once or twice or had serious issues. I found that out after I married one and discovered -- too late -- that he had serious mental problems, had psychotic episodes and dangerous flashbacks to his two tours of duty in the jungle, and was also unable to have children because of diseases he had contracted in country.
We women were sitting ducks. I knew few straight WACs who were left unscathed by this debacle.
Our salary, by the way, was about $100 a month. Of course, we had room and board, but how often can you eat at the Mess and survive?
On the job, we were often subjected to cruel treatment by officers and enlisted men who thought women were objects and not worthy of respect. it was not a fun situation. In fact, it was horrible. I understand that the Air Force and the Navy were somewhat better; I can't speak for them, nor for the Marines. But I would be very surprised if women were not treated less than equal in those branches.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Missouri Woman,

You are teasing us with the briefest of remarks on a shameful aspect of our nation's military history - and you are sitting on a story that needs to be told. Go with that rage and get your tale on paper - all of it! I am very, very interested in knowing more.

Anonymous said...

I would love to. But how many of those women would come forward? I could not do it alone, it would be too painful. And I remember it all too well. Reliving it would be worse than the first time, I'm afraid.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Start small and don't worry about sharing - keep it in a shoe box someplace until yo get to feeling more secure. But what you have got is a little known facet of the Vietnam era - a story that eventually needs to be preserved and shared. Writing it down is wonderful therapy, and it sounds like you have plenty to deal with that has never been addressed.

Get started, and I am betting that others will step forward. Let me know if you need a good screenwriter at some point - I know a great one who lives in Kansas City!

While you were enduring that humiliation, I was at Southwest Missouri State College where the college men could roam the streets all night long like hungry jackals, and the college women were locked into their dorms at 11:00 p.m. on week nights and 1:00 a.m. on weekends.

It was a different time, but a time that will have been lost and perhaps repeated if we don't commit it to written history.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

And the time's they are a-changin': in a couple of weeks one third of the US Supreme Court will be female. Here's hoping they are in the majority by the time Big O leaves office!

bk said...

LOL I remember those days. I went to SMS in 1968, bright-eyed and eager, and in six months I was finished. I couldn't begin to understand the world outside McDonald County yet. At home I had been watched carefully and kept to a strict curfew. My dates faced a similar confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court -- and few would put up with the 9 o'clock curfews and third degree from Dad and Mom. So, I went a little wild. I had a serious boyfriend who was more messed up than I was (he had that common problem among college freshmen: alcoholism -- and he taught me how to really smoke! I didn't crack most of my books, and I failed miserably of course, and I had to drop out.
The romance was over by then, anyway.
The Army seemed my only alternative. My folks were done. I don't blame them, either.
Now, if I had to do it over, I'd stay home, ask for a car instead of college, go to work for Wal-Mart, and save money toward their stock IPO in 1970, stay long enough to vested, and then go to college. Today I'd be a millionaire and have my degree too, and not be so scattered. But I've always been a romantic, so I'm not sure it would stick. Even knowing what I know now. LOL
I have written some of this down. I just don't know how to put it in perspective with today's different world. And some of the women I served with see it differently, even one of the saddest stories I remember -- my friend Cheryl still feels protective toward the young gunny who met her during AIT at Holabird and wined and dined her for nine weeks while getting his intelligence training. He had a wife and young child back home in Alabama, but the day he left Baltimore for good, he sent her a dozen roses for her birthday, three weeks in the future. Her birthday and mine are the same, so when the flowers came it was sad for both of us. The man I had been seeing, who left with Al, not only didn't send me flowers, he arranged for my letters to bounce back to GQ.