Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What does our military mean to us?

The comments to my post about Lisa Pagan (original article here) are fascinating and show conflicting ideas about our soldiers and the role of the military.

I'll first point out that the military does honor many requests for hardship and exemption:

Since September 11, 2001, the Army has recalled about 25,000 soldiers. Nearly half requested a delay or a full exemption. Some just wanted to finish their school semester before reporting. Others had financial or medical problems that made it difficult to report for duty.

The Army says it granted nearly nine out of 10 delay requests and six out of 10 requests for exemption.
but there still needs to be addressed the undercurrents of why Lisa Pagan and her actions arouse such emphatic reactions.

There is the entire morass about women in the service, whether or not they get unfair treatment, whether they use their biological abilities to escape service or are harmed by them. The conflicts are real and unsolvable.

But what do we expect our military to achieve? What do we think they represent to us? Do those who want our soldiers to be heroic acknowledge their human frailties? Do those who have never been in the service understand the pride and sense of commitment and accomplishment soldiers have and understand the horror and grit of real war?

When is a soldier actually done with his/her service, when they are honorably discharged? When should the government consider itself to have been paid back for training a soldier? How many years does one not have kids, not plan too far ahead, not commit to an educational plan, a job because one might just possibly be called back? How many tours of duty are too much, 4? 5? 7? Are young people who voluntarily sign up told the complete truth about how this action will affect their lives, how they will be owned by the government apparently forever? How long can the stop-loss program keep soldiers who are done with their commitment? What does the misuse of this affect the morale of the troops?

When you hear soldiers talking about being sent back to Iraq with severe medical or mental issues, when the tours of duty are relentless and stateside times are shorter and shorter, when they lie about how soldiers died in battle, lie for propaganda's sake, when memos are leaked exposing the plan to deny diagnosis of brain damage for soldiers hurt in battle, when PTSD is ignored, when desertions and suicides by soldiers rise alarmingly, when Veteran's hospitals are moldy, neglected, shred medical documents, and try to cut costs rather than help, when wounded soldiers are deliberately refused help on confusing paperwork, and homelessness for vets has become a real issue, does this encourage a proud and heroic military stance? You think soldiers want to literally put their lives on the line to be then treated like used tissues and tossed aside?

To those who think we are the mightest super power on earth and have the military power to prove it, you haven't been paying attention. Those who get angry when accosted with the brutal facts about waste and incompetence in the military are in denial. Those who immediately attack soldiers who speak out against the war, who denounce their patriotism as fake, mock those who have moral qualms, expose their own deep insecurities. The military has been forced to accept rabid white supremists and radical religious crusaders because recruitment is so low. They have been forced to send soldiers weakened by several endless tours of duty back again into horrifically stressful situations. Soldiers have been refusing to patrol.

The reasons why we even invaded Iraq, why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan now are ever changing, the reasons for not leaving murky. The Iraqi people do not want us there. We have promised much and delivered little to the Afghanis. Victory is undefinable and often tied to how the Vietnam war ended.

We are in two unwinnable wars with a broken military and out of control spending.

It's finally time for an assessment.

Why on earth would any soldier willingly step back into such a meaningless war?

Why?

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Update:
Veterans for America:
19 More Months in Iraq: How to Bring Immediate Relief

As President Obama finalizes his Iraq withdrawal plans, Veterans for America urges President Obama to address the dire conditions on military bases and in communities here at home. Multiple tours, inadequate dwell time between tours, the continued use of stop loss orders, and the heavy use of the National Guard all risk further damaging our military and undermining the faith that servicemembers and their families have in their civilian and military leaders. Many of our brave servicemembers and their families need immediate relief.

At least a dozen Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) are scheduled to deploy to Iraq before the majority of troops are withdrawn. Virtually all units will be on at least their second tour and many will not have had adequate rest between their tours. Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin will all send citizen soldier BCT’s to Iraq over the next several months.

Oregon is scheduled to send the 41st BCT to war for a third time since 9/11. Many Oregon Guard members have not had the three years at home between tours that President Obama promised while campaigning.

As we continue to churn our troops for another 19 months, VFA urges civilian and military leaders to provide adequate dwell time for every servicemember and to cease our heavy reliance overseas on our National Guard. Our troops, their families, and their communities deserve no less.

2 comments:

Bryan said...

Currently the Reserves is a 8-year term - it was 6 years during the draft.

She barely had a year left in her total commitment, so it made absolutely no sense to recall her, because there wasn't enough time for her to finish a tour anywhere after the standard refresher course to bring her up to speed. If they needed her, they should have used Stop-Loss and retained her on active duty in 2005, which was a lot busier than today.

This is just jerking people around because they can. It makes no sense to allow general to retire and recall enlisted people.

ellroon said...

Thanks, Bryan, I really appreciate your viewpoint. I was wondering what you would make of this, knowing of your military service.

At least nowadays a media savvy soldier knows to alert the media and the dangerously uncorked bloggers...