12-8: Prequel to Vets Arrival at Standing Rock

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece based on an interview between activist Lichi D’Amelio and Navy veteran Aurora Child.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Veteran with a Conscience

New York-based human rights activist Lichi D’Amelio interviewed Navy veteran Aurora Child at the Sioux Water Protectors’ campsite at Standing Rock regarding why Child felt compelled to be there. It is noteworthy that Child arrived at the camp—and this interview occurred—prior to the arrival of 2,000 or so of her veteran comrades who pledged to act as shields for our indigenous brethren. Also worthy of note, as D’Amelio reports, is the fact that Child “enlisted in 2001 after the September 11 attacks and did two tours to Iraq and the Persian Gulf.” D’Amelio titles the interview:

Ready to do what’s right in Standing Rock

D’Amelio: What brings you to Standing Rock?

Child: The first word that I can think of is spirit.

The Diné (Navajo) … have been helping me work out so much of my stuff from being a vet…. I found out what Native people believe about veterans, and also more about what’s happened to Native Americans.

When I was serving in the military, I quickly realized that things weren’t quite how they said. When I was young, I believed that the U.S. helps people get freedom and helps people find democracy. But then, when we were over there, we were fighting for oil, and everybody knew it.

Who are “they”?

Like Child, when I was serving in Vietnam, I realized that “things” weren’t quite how “they” said. I was young. I believed we American soldiers were helping the Vietnamese people find democracy. I wanted to believe that. But roving night patrols, free-fire zones, ambushes, and major battles created the political curtain known as the “fog of war.” Why am I here? Why were we there?

I saw them bomb Fallujah from my ship, and they killed thousands and thousands of people for oil. That’s how I feel about it. I participated in that, and I haven’t been right ever since.

I saw the effects of booby traps, bullets, grenades, mortar and artillery shells, napalm, and 500-lb. bombs. I participated in that.

When I heard about this happening at Standing Rock … on American soil … it made me think that we can’t let this happen…. I didn’t want to be part of letting that happen ever again.

So I really wanted to come, and when I was looking for other people to come with me, I found out about the veterans coming to Standing Rock, and I thought that was perfect. A lot of veterans’ struggles are very similar to Native struggles, and a lot of Native people serve in the military.

Honestly, I feel like Native people love this country more than anybody….

I came to try to give something back—anything….

The Veteran’s Conundrum

And therein lies the dilemma for so many veterans. Whether enlisted or drafted, we want our service to mean something, we want it to have been honorable. Although during our tours of duty we witness raw acts of courage and sacrifice, that service is incomplete without the knowledge that the cause for which we fought is worthy. I would argue strongly that today’s cause at Standing Rock far outweighs the lies and inconsistencies our government peddled during the Vietnam Era.

D’Amelio: When the veterans’ deployment arrives tomorrow, what do you expect to happen?

Child: I have no idea. What the veterans have been talking about and hoping for is that if enough of us are on the ground here, it won’t be an issue–that the pipeline builders will stand down….

I think the veterans’ presence is going to be intimidating. I bet a lot of the guys on the DAPL side are vets, and they’re going to feel kind of ashamed about what they’re doing.

Precedent

The identities of the Ohio National Guardsmen who fired their weapons at protesting Kent State students in May 1970 have never been released. Is it not plausible that some among them may have themselves been students at the university?

In Good Conscience …

I think that’s the benefit of having the vets here in the camp–we know what it feels like to be on the wrong side. Most of us will probably never do that wrong thing again. This is our opportunity to do what’s right and get a little redemption for ourselves.

I wish I could have been there.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

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