Wednesday, March 21, 2012

War is Addictive

My heart goes out to the family of the Army Staff Sgt. that I wrote about in the poem in the earlier post.  They suffer so much when he is stationed in danger and they worry about him every day when he is overseas.  They worry about his emotional happiness when he returns to a regular life style at home.  But they never expected this new hell that has entered their life.

When the expert talking heads were reviewing the situation, which was a violent and horrible killing of 16 Afghan civilians including children one evening outside a U.S. military base in that country, on television and discussing the diagnosis of PTSD they also talked about how many of those who are wounded in battle work very hard to return to the front as they feel they are needed to make sure that those they have left behind are covered.  The territory they must defend is not their homeland or their backyard but the area where those soldiers are stationed. The call of the brotherhood is stronger than anything else.  This is what war does to these brave young men.

Years ago I saw the movie The Hurt Locker which is a war movie created and directed by a woman.  It was a compelling movie to watch because it has a very different and more nuanced approach to the characters in the movie and the reality of war.  I remember a scene without dialogue where the protagonist who is on leave stands in a well-stocked store aisle looking for something on his wife's grocery list.  He just stands there as if looking at thousands of brands of the same product and as if he cannot possibly make such a complicated decision.  His brain just shuts down.  He finds himself in a surreal position.  He is OK with diffusing bombs but deciding on laundry soap is too crazy and too frivolous a waste of his time. He loves his family but grows more attached to a young Iraqi boy in the village where he is stationed.

Clearly this Roger Bale's brain just shut down over something else on his 4th tour to this area after being wounded twice.  War is hell and I continue to wonder about all those young men that will return in the coming year who have had their senses honed for battle and we ask them to return to a 'normal' life.


  1. Yes, we as a people have accountability for this. Oldsters like me remember Vietnam and how 'they' said we fight them over there to keep the blood over there. It does not work that way-- not in any war. The violence comes home and sometimes to the family, sometimes to the community but you cannot ask humans to do this for you and not expect some homeland ramifications.

    This man did it to another country but not even the one in which he had been fighting. This could have erupted anywhere if he truly didn't know what he was doing.

    A few years back, my daughter was at a wedding of a solder who was going to be going back to his second tour in Iraq. She said she saw one of the man's friend's eyes, who had also been there and was going back. His eyes were just dead.

    Wars should only be fought when there is an absolute need and no other way. I think then it should be all age groups and people who sacrifice for it. Not the way this set of wars has been.

    I've heard a lot of discussion on how post traumatic stress doesn't account for all of this, but it has to inure a man to killing and death. Michael Ware wrote a powerful piece in Daily Beast regarding what it does to you when you witness death and sometimes of innocents

  2. My eldest grandson came back and was warehoused for a while. I worried a lot. Now that he's training to go back again, I worry greatly. Massivly.

  3. Anonymous11:39 AM

    He does have an excellent attorney. John Henry Brown from Seattle is one of the best. bkj

  4. My Marine neighbor came home from Vietnam and one night pushed his wife and baby out of the house and tried to burn it down with himself inside. Fortunately he and the house survived, the marriage did not. He was amazingly still a warm, good neighbor who moved on to a more peaceful life but was still haunted by memories.

  5. This young man and his family have been on my mind for days. Will all this suffering be for naught or will this country's leaders stop to ponder this and make charges. I fear not.

  6. I think the illness PTSD causes dream-like surreal episodes reliving past tramas. (I've been treated for trauma issues). The attacking soldier must've thought he was in a battle situation doing his job. After all, soldiers are trained to kill as part of their duty to defend the USA. Another by-product of trauma is hyper-vigilance. (with a lack of an ability to sleep). Sometimes people in their twenties can develope Paraniod Schitzoprenia. (I married/divorced someone who got it). I'm thinking it was a combo of all these factors.
    Altho it doesn't excuse his actions, it does explain how it can happen-
    The brain does strange things to cope with trauma...

  7. Hollywood will never be able to express the feelings of a soldier who has seen and experienced combat. The only fictional movie that has ever been endorsed by the Veteran's of Foreign Wars as close to truth is WE WERE SOLDIERS. Slipping on the uniform of our country and vowing to protect us is a one-with-God situation is an act of heroism in itself.

    Start asking the men and women you see in the workplace or at church if they ever served in the military and if they saw action in their tours and when they say yes, you will be surprised to have never seen it in their eyes. They look and act perfectly normal and are not about to flip out and shoot into a crowd.

  8. This situation is so very sad on so many levels I can barely comprehend it. And, why?

  9. Yes, Grannie, most of these men and women can make it back to 'normal' life, but there is no gauge that reveals how far some will go before being pushed over the edge. Some only need one tour or the the wounding of one colleague before they need much therapy or become seriously wounded where we cannot see.

  10. We should bring them all home NOW. This war is insane.

    I have a friend who was deployed to Iraq, as a reservist, at age 52. I was against our involvement over there before he went. He told me tales that made me even more adamantly opposed. It is truly a useless undertaking.

  11. War doesn't solve anything, sit down and talk about it.

  12. The son of a friend of mine has a great blog called Armor Down in support of military service men and women (including himself)who are trying to get back to "normal."

    The way he expresses things is so raw and real.

    Take a look is you'd like.

  13. We all need to look after our returning Forces more carefully. Just as we need to think carefully about how to manage a new kind of warfare and terrorism. Thanks for an insightful post.

  14. RYN: Oh, you are just imaging neatness. :) I did go through picking up books and mess before the shots. Right now the whole house is back in it's customary state of dishabille....books scattered everywhere with stuff on top of the books. I'm a horrid slob. Thanks for the kind words.


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