2-21: News Beefs

My ownership of this domain is running out. Please let me know if you would like me to renew it and continue writing this blog. Thank you. –paul

What Passes for News These Days Is Driving Me Crazy

Two issues struck me as I listened to the radio during the day Monday. First, President Donald Trump is “walking back” his lunatic rant/Tweet about a terrorist attack in Sweden. Second, the hagiographic description of Michael Flynn I listened to was sickening.

No Terrorist Attack in Sweden

Because he says it doesn’t make it true. In a desperate, fear-mongering attempt to bolster his claims of worldwide acts of terrorism, Trump claimed over the weekend that we should “look at what happened in Sweden.” Well, apparently the Swedes looked at one another all around the country and wondered aloud, “Huh?” Nothing of the sort happened.

This prompted Swedish officials to contact the White House asking for an explanation. Realizing he was caught in a hyperbolic public display of disgrace, POTUS defended his dire warning by claiming that he had heard this information on Fox News.

So, what he said during the campaign turns out to be true. 1) He doesn’t take daily intelligence briefings because he doesn’t need them. 2) He gets his news from television. I have written this before, folks: This is scary.

Michael Flynn, Hero

I tuned in to conservative talk show host Michael Savage. For nearly an hour he bemoaned the fact that Michael Flynn, Trump’s erstwhile National Security Adviser, was pilloried by the liberal media and that is what forced him out of office. Make up your own mind on that, I have another fish to fry.

Savage referred repeatedly to Flynn as a hero, saying multiple times that he had served with the 82nd Airborne and jumped out of airplanes directly into harm’s way. I will not denigrate another veteran’s record. From everything I have seen, heard, and read Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (Ret.) served his country with honor and distinction.

But here is where Savage gets it wrong and I draw the line. When pictured in full dress uniform, including, ribbons, Flynn does not have a Combat Infantryman Badge. Keep your eye out for it when you view any member of the U.S. Army in uniform. The CIB sits atop all other awards. All of them. It indicates that the wearer—who must be an Army infantryman—has been in combat, hot combat, under fire combat, boots on the ground combat. The real deal.

Flynn wears a Ranger patch, which means he trained as a Ranger; it does not mean that he fought as a Ranger. He served with the 82nd Airborne, which means he jumped out of airplanes; it does not mean that he landed in combat zones. Fresh out of college in 1981, Flynn began his military career as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 82nd. That would have made him, at most, a platoon leader when President Ronald Reagan unleashed Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. The 82nd was there.

Fun fact for military history buffs: more medals were awarded for that operation than the number of men and women who participated in it. Another fun fact: during this glorified field exercise the Department of Defense discovered that the various branches of service—Army, Navy, Air Force—could not communicate with each other. Their technology purchases had not been coordinated (they are now) and so they could not talk among themselves, so to speak.

When all is said and done,

Let’s urge our leaders—and ourselves—to consume news from various sources, not just the ones that flatter our already held positions. Evil does exist, that’s a fact. But hiding from it won’t make it go away. And let’s stop sanctifying all soldiers. I, for one, am grateful for and respectful of their service. Each and every one of them. But they are not all powerful, nor should they be, and they are not all wise.

There is a reason our commander-in-chief is a civilian. Think about it.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

2-6, Vets Stand against Pipeline Again

The battle between the U.S. Government and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline project continues. The Huffington Post’s Mary Papenfuss reports:

Pipeline Will Never Be Built, Warriors Vow

These Vets make me proud. It is a testament to their constitution, as well as to the Constitution, that they continue to defend Native American rights which the federal government have trampled on or ignored for centuries. Many of the defenders bear the scars of the Vietnam Era. They know, firsthand, that might does not make right … nor should it. Papenfuss begins, “U.S. military veterans have thrown down the gauntlet … vowing that the Dakota Access Pipeline will ‘not be completed— not on our watch.’” She continues,

Veterans Stand, a group of vets who have vowed to protect the pipeline protesters of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and supporters, ominously threatened the possibility of more “boots on the ground” at the site — but also repeated their commitment to nonviolent action. The group is capable of calling up several thousand veterans to the protest site.

There are “Doctors without Borders.” These are “Warriors without Weapons.”

“We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected,” spokesman Anthony Diggs [said]. “That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch.”

… and yet arrests are made.

The latest defiant declaration follows the arrest Wednesday of nearly 80 protesters camped out at the demonstration site near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, amid [Government’s] … determined press to push through the controversial pipeline. Local law enforcement said the protesters were arrested when they moved from one of their camps onto land owned by pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners,

Does anyone remember Cliven Bundy, that stalwart American cattleman who brazenly grazed his private stock on public land and instigated an armed standoff with federal law enforcement? He aroused a few flag waving, misoriented libertarianistas but, in the end, was brought to court for his … well, for his blatant stupidity.

My intent is not to draw a false equivalency between Bundy’s illegal trespassing and the Sioux’ honorable defense of their sovereign territory. Rather, I want to expose Bundy and his ilk for the uncivilized barbarians they are, while extolling the Sioux and the non-Native Americans standing beside them as the heroes they are.

Follow the Money.

[President Donald] Trump late last month signed an executive order to advance construction of the pipeline just weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers had held up the pipeline by calling for a new environmental review that could take up to two years. Financial disclosure filings by the president (reported on by Mother Jones) have revealed that as recently as last summer he owned shares in Energy Transfer Partners, and company CEO Kelcy Warren contributed $100,000 to elect Trump.

… but we are told that only the media want to see the president’s tax returns. Balderdash!

The arrests at the protest site occurred the day after Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the environmental review and grant Energy Transfer Partners the final easement it needs to complete the last stretch of the $3.7 billion, 1,172-mille-long pipeline.

We are a “nation of law,” politicians like to brag. It just ain’t so.

When bankers go to jail for manipulating the housing market such that they reap filthy lucre while the poor are run out of their homes, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Steve Mnuchin, I mean you.

When corporations that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves while wandering the globe and extracting natural resources from dictatorial, impoverished countries such as Chad and Sudan, pay their fair share of taxes, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Exxon-Mobil, I mean you.

When politicians who incite wars, send others to fight them, and personally benefit from them are tried as criminals, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Dick Cheney, I mean you.

Home of the Brave

Although the fair and equitable distribution of justice is wanting in our country, we are not without the bold and courageous. Vets Stand, you are the greatest of our generation. Standing Rock Sioux Nation, you are America.

End

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

 

1-23: What did you do during the war, daddy?

[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 from history.com for January 21.]

[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.]

President Carter Pardons Draft Dodgers

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grant[ed] an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

The not-quite-existential question today is, if the president reinstituted the draft, would women be included?

Bon jour, Canada.

In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants….

Although I long ago concluded that the U.S. Army had no business in Vietnam, I have never been convinced that all draft dodgers actually, philosophically opposed the war. I believe that, for me, an unquantifiable number just flat-out didn’t want to go to war. At least Muhammed Ali claimed, “I ain’t got nothing against them Viet Cong”; and he suffered the loss of his title, World Champion, and the license to ply his trade.

For its part, the U.S. government continued to prosecute draft evaders after the Vietnam War ended. A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws … If they returned home, those living in Canada or elsewhere faced prison sentences or forced military service.

A word about that. There were judges throughout the country who, when sentencing draft-age offenders, gave them the choice of going to jail or entering the military. I can aver, first-hand, that these individuals did not make good soldiers. Those judges did not serve their country well.

A promise is a promise.

During his 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter promised to pardon draft dodgers as a way of putting the war and the bitter divisions it caused firmly in the past. After winning the election, Carter wasted no time in making good on his word. Though many transplanted Americans returned home, an estimated 50,000 settled permanently in Canada …

Back in the U.S., Carter’s decision generated a good deal of controversy. [He was] heavily criticized by veterans’ groups and others for allowing unpatriotic lawbreakers to get off scot-free …

A word about that. If submission to the draft is the chief criterion for one’s proof of patriotism, there were millions of unpatriotic law abiding young men who absolutely “got off scot-free” by wriggling deferments out of their local draft board. Scuzzball war mongerer Dick Cheyney did it five times, claiming later when he got promoted to chicken hawk that he had “other things to do.”

Yes, I still have a chip on my shoulder. No, I will not get over it.

*****

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.

1-6: Spoils of War

[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.]

[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.]

Cathy Breen, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence asks:

What will Baghdad face in 2017?

This bold-faced question gave me pause because it reminded me of ill-formed questions that began to form somewhere in the back of my brain upon my departure from Vietnam. First, Ms. Breen’s story.

Iraq in Rubbles

… [One Monday in December] a woman journalist, Afrah Shawqu al Qaisi, was kidnapped from her home in the Saidiya district of Baghdad by men claiming to be security personnel. She had written an article expressing anger that armed groups could act with impunity (BBC News Dec. 27, 2016).

“How do you get up in the morning?” I gently asked a young woman from Baghdad. “How do you manage?”

Despair

“With no hope” she replied.  “Each morning I get up with no hope.”  Her mother is ill and worries each day that her daughter will not get home safely from work. “All Iraqis want hope,” she added, “but they are resigned to bad conditions.”…

[Breen and a friend] one day went to the site of the horrific suicide bombing of July 3, 2016, only two blocks away from the family’s apartment … The night of the bombings was on the eve of Eid, ending the fasting month of Ramadan. Many people were out doing the final shopping for this celebration. Vendors with their wares on the sidewalks, children eating ice cream in the blistering heat of summer. It was about 10:00 p.m. The blasts took the lives of over 300 people, many of them children. Over 200 more wounded….

A Question of Morality

While in Baghdad I (Breen) stayed with a gracious couple who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj, this past year. In one of our many conversations, my host asked somewhat mischievously, “Which of the four do you think is the greatest sin in Islam?  Theft, illicit sex, drinking or lying?” I mulled this over not really knowing, but enjoying the exercise. The answer turned out to be “lying” and, curiously, I got it right.

But then the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq was based on lies and deceit….

Which brings my mind back to Vietnam, another war based on lies and deceit.

In-Country Conundrums

When my outfit patrolled black zones for days on end on search and destroy missions, we operated under a standing order that any Vietnamese person encountered was suspected to be the enemy or, at least, an enemy sympathizer. Black zones were also known as free fire zones, meaning that we had full authorization to shoot on sight anyone not wearing a GI uniform. The lame excuse for this carte blanche given to us grunts from somewhere up the chain was that “they were warned we were coming” (and instructed to leave).

Where they were supposed to go I could never figure. How they were supposed to get to wherever they were supposed to go I never figured either. What about what few belongings they had? What about the water buffalo?

Back-Home Blues

It was literally years after I returned to the states that I heard the term “survivor’s guilt.” I had it but didn’t know it. First, I was plagued with flashbacks of buddies falling close by, while bullets and shrapnel miraculously missed me. Why them? Why not me?

Then came thoughts of what we had done (what I had participated in). We bombed their rice paddies, we decimated their jungle with napalm and Agent Orange, and we forced them to flee their homes. To this day I still ask, where were they to go? Where did they go?

I am conflicted about the deployment of American fighters around the world today. But I never bought the lies and deceit that catapulted us into Iraq. Cathy Breen’s slice of life vignette should sound alarum bells for our country. I know it won’t, just as I know that in years to come Veterans will ask themselves: Why them and not me? Where did they go?

The website for Voices for Creative Nonviolence is

www.vcnv.org

*****

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.

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.

12-2: Iraq War Lingers, Numbers Grow

[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, excerpted from the work of David Swanson.]

Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events

This dated material comes from an e-book by David Swanson, also author of War Is a Lie. Swanson decries all war. So, although the excerpts below regarding the war in Iraq may seem anti-American, taken in the larger context of Swanson’s pacifism, they provide realism to the human cost of war.

Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)

… (S)ince the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation … and over (25) years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

This phenomenon occurs, I believe, because such a minute portion of the American people ever experience the battlefield. My frame of reference is Vietnam where, as in Iraq and all other war zones, “our” battlefield is “their” home.

By the Numbers

… As documented below, by the most scientifically respected measures available, Iraq lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, saw 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering….

The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military … made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction,” using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas….

I have first-hand knowledge and experience with white phosphorous and napalm. Some things, I guess, never change—except the words we use to describe the pieces that go into the panoply of war. Napalm in Vietnam, for instance, was termed a “defoliant,” not a WMD.

Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the U.S. military and its contractors….

Haliburton and Blackwater come immediately to mind … and they still operate in Iraq and around the world.

If the United States had taken five trillion dollars, and — instead of spending it destroying Iraq — had chosen to do good with it, at home or abroad, just imagine the possibilities. The United Nations thinks $30 billion a year would end world hunger. For $5 trillion, why not end world hunger for 167 years? …

Mind boggling!

Swanson goes on in great detail to delineate the cost of (this) war. My concern, for purposes of this site—PTSDOutreach.com—is the effect of war on the American soldier.

A soldier orders a strike—of whatever weapon: cluster bomb, napalm, etc.—a soldier delivers the strike, and a soldier witnesses the aftermath. These actions are not without consequence to the soldier. Immediately or most assuredly eventually the soldier will process, mentally and emotionally, the acts of war. In the end, the soldier pays the price of war. And Haliburton, Blackwater, et al. get richer and richer.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner 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.

 

 

12-1: Veterans to Stand with Sioux against Pipeline

[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 derives from two sources: The Daily Kos (Walter Einenkel) and Facebook (Veterans Stand for Standing Rock).]

Veterans’ Place in Society

Veterans are not monolithic. Yet 99% of Americans—i.e., those who never have nor ever will serve in the military—seem to treat us that way. Different. They laud us on Veterans Day and Memorial Day with honorifics such as “brave” and “best”; but, really, after that it’s pretty much “out of sight, out of mind.” For me, that’s pretty muck okay.

War veterans share a lack of say in the validity, morality, or righteousness of the war(s) in which they were engaged. Whether enlisted or drafted, the combat soldier goes where told, acts as ordered, and ultimately lives or dies in service of country. Politicians wield the power to send “us” to war, but they never send themselves and rarely offer this unique chance for glory to members of their own families.

Different Rules for the Military

Members of the military conduct themselves according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a code which severely alters the way they live. A soldier cannot just leave a duty station and go home without permission, for example, anytime he pleases; if he did, he would be declared AWOL (away without leave) and subject to punishment under the code. So, then, soldiers learn to comport themselves within the confines of that code. Moreover, the soldier confronts at all times the chain of command, from his immediate superior all the way up to the commander-in-chief.

Having served within the confines of the UCMJ for a predetermined period of time, the soldier separates from the military with an Honorable Discharge, honor being the operative word. And this is how veterans should be perceived, as men and women of proven honor. The story below depicts how people of proven honor can and do continue to serve the America—and Americans—they love: no chain of command, no “official” code of conduct required.

December 4-7, 2016

2,000 Veterans plan to be a “human shield” for the North Dakota Pipeline activists

As more and more signs point towards the government trying to strong-arm Dakota Access Pipeline protectors and activists in the coming days, a movement called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock  plan on lending their help and their bodies.

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said….

The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp after an evacuation order from the governor, according to Reuters. But protesters have vowed to stay put.

It is Native American land!

The veterans’ efforts also coincide with the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close off access to the movement’s campsite by creating the Orwellian-named “free speech zone.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., and founder of the veterans’ event, said in an interview.

Veterans Overwhelming Response to Call for Justice

Wood Jr. … was bowled over when, in asking for 500 veterans sign up, he found himself having to cap the event at 2,000. The veterans participating want the U.S. government to reveal what it is really about. Are they going to continue totalitarian and violently oppressive tactics or are they going to recognize that the citizens did not and still do not agree with this pipeline plan?

For me this is a stand worth taking, a battle worth fighting. How pathetic it is that American and Native American men and women of honor must face down uniformed agents of our own government on American soil.

From Facebook:

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock

Event capacity based on accommodations, travel logistics and supplies … has been set at 2,000 rostered participants…. If you’d like to contribute to this mission please consider donating/sharing to our GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/veterans-for-standing-rock-nodapl. All funding is dedicated to transportation, supplies, gear, onsite infrastructure and legal fees. Our team is made up exclusively of volunteer Veteran and Civilian self organizers dedicated to our mission of service. Zero salaries, Zero marketing….

IMPORTANT REMINDER: This event (and this event page) will not tolerate hate, violence or divisive behavior of any kind. We’re doing this to support our country so lets do it with honor….

*****

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.

11-30: A Mother’s “Gift”

[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 from History.com.]

Death in war does not always come from a bullet, as shown in this story from WWI.

American Nurse Maude Fisher Writes to Mother of War Casualty

On November 29, 1918, Maude Fisher, a nurse in the American Red Cross during World War I, writes a heartfelt letter to the mother of a young soldier named Richard Hogan to inform her of her son’s death in an army hospital.

“My dear Mrs. Hogan,” Fisher began, “If I could talk to you I could tell you so much better about your son’s last sickness, and all the little things that mean so much to a mother far away from her boy.” Richard Hogan, who survived his front-line service in the war unscathed, had been brought to the hospital with influenza on November 13, 1918–just two days after the armistice was declared.

Thus, the “war to end all wars” had come to an end. That did not end the suffering, however.

The influenza soon developed into pneumonia. Hogan was “brave and cheerful,” Fisher assured Mrs. Hogan, “and made a good fight with the disease…. He did not want you to worry about his being sick, but I told him I thought we ought to let you know, and he said all right.”

Before two weeks had passed, however, Hogan was dead.

Would his death have borne different meaning if it had come from German shrapnel? Would that have mattered to a grieving parent? I don’t think so.

Knowing the woman would only receive an official governmental notification of her son’s death, Fisher gave a more personal account of his last days, including his joking with the hospital orderly and the other nurses’ affection for him. According to Fisher, Hogan was buried in the cemetery at Commercy, in northeastern France, alongside other fallen American soldiers of the Great War.

Yes, “alongside other fallen American soldiers of the Great War”!

“A big hill overshadows the place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy,” Fisher wrote. “He prayed that the people at home might have great strength now for the battle that is before them, and we do ask that for you now. The country will always honor your boy, because he gave his life for it,

until it forgets your “boy” and all the other boys laid to rest in the cemetery at Commercy

and it will also love and honor you for the gift of your boy,

This is where I have trouble. It’s the “gift” part. Would wars exist if parents worldwide freely bequeathed their offspring to some cause or another, as they once did in ancient Sparta? And what about our “boys” and “girls” today who comprise the all-volunteer military, and what about their parents? Is the death of an American soldier today a gift? To whom? For what?

but be assured, that the sacrifice is not in vain, and the world is better today for it.”

But I am not assured that war death is not in vain. Since Vietnam and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, soldiers have been referred to as “assets.” Kind of softens the blow if an asset is lost rather than a person. Chicken hawks use flippant terms like “acceptable risk” and “collateral damage.” No, I am not assured that the world is a better place because it is smeared with American blood.

What I do know is that our era of endless war begets wounded generation after wounded generation.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner 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.

 

 

11-29: Vietnam, in the Beginning

[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 which comes from History.com for November 27, 1965.]

[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.]

As frequent visitors to this space know, I was drafted in October 1965. Thus, the events reported below, which occurred November 27, 1965—more than a month-and-a-half later—intrigue me.

Pentagon Wants More Men in Vietnam

The Pentagon informs President Johnson that if General Westmoreland is to conduct the major sweep operations necessary to destroy enemy forces during the coming year, U.S. troop strength should be increased from 120,000 to 400,000 men [worldwide].

Dates Don’t Jive

When I and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade landed at Vung Tau during summer 1966, U.S. troop strength in-country ballooned to about 50,000. By summer 1967 the number bloated to about 500,000. Virtually all of the grunts in the 196th were draftees, having been plucked from the so-called real world and assembled at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in October. Somebody knew something before November 27.

VC Release Hostages

Also on this day: The Viet Cong release two U.S. special forces soldiers captured two years earlier during a battle of Hiep Hoa, 40 miles southwest of Saigon.

That puts U.S. special forces soldiers in Vietnam in 1963.

At a news conference in Phnom Penh three days later, the two Americans, Sgt. George Smith and Specialist 5th Class Claude McClure, declared that they opposed U.S. actions in Vietnam and would campaign for the withdrawal of American troops. Although Smith later denied making the statement, U.S. authorities announced that the two men would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.

How about that? We had an “enemy” even before we had a war … and freed American POWs “would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.” Where was the outrage?

Protests Begin

Also on this day: In Washington, nearly 35,000 war protestors circle the White House for two hours before moving on to the Washington Monument. Dr. Benjamin Spock, Coretta Scott King, and activist Norman Thomas were among those who gave speeches.

Funny, we troops didn’t hear about this while training for war in the jungles of the Great American Northeast … in the fall/winter. I can say unequivocally that on this day in history I was in the middle of basic training: no newspapers, no radio or TV, no phone calls home. We were preparing for a war not yet declared—and never to be declared—while citizens were already protesting.

Many of my fellow “Chargers” find pride in knowing that the 196th was the first full brigade to deploy to Vietnam and was the last to leave in 1975. I feel more numbed than chest inflated. Nearly 60,000 names are etched into the “Wall” on the mall in Washington, D.C. None of them got to hear Spock, King, or Thomas. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We/they had an enemy to defeat.

 

*****

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.

11-21: The Draftee

[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 by Caroline Bologna, Parents Editor of the Huffington Post: “What I Learned about Patriotism from My Dad, A Vietnam War Draftee.”]

Most of my Army buddies and those I hang out with at reunions were, like myself, drafted in 1965. The story below sums up pretty well our role in U.S. military history. It does not mention PTSD … so I will.

It is my experience that PTSD does not discriminate. Whether a person joined or was drafted, the actual combat experience—and its after effects—can neither be predicted nor anticipated.

“We shouldn’t forget the other veterans, the ones who didn’t have the choice,” writes Caroline Bologna.

When my father was 22 years old, he was drafted into the United States military. The year was 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and he was a recent college graduate with a wife and newborn baby.

My dad did not want to go to Vietnam for many reasons, which were obvious at the time but may be less apparent to people my age.

Vietnam was one of the longest and most unpopular wars in American history. The death toll reached over 58,000 U.S. military casualties by the conflict’s end. Servicemen were reportedly committing senseless acts of violence against civilians. Anti-war protests were rampant, and anti-war sentiment was not limited to fringe left-wing communities.

But this was the era of the draft, so how a soldier felt about participating in the war didn’t really matter.

The letter we all received from the Government bore the ironic salutation “Greetings.”

“I didn’t have a choice,” my dad told me … when I asked about his military experience. “I was just another draftee. It was something I had to do. Something a lot of us had to do.”

On Veterans Day, we honor soldiers who pledged to give their lives in the service of their country. But living in this age of military worship, I think my generation can’t fathom the experience of being a veteran who didn’t want anything to do with the fight and received nothing but disdain from the public. These are the veterans for whom the notions of patriotism and service are very complicated.

But they are veterans nonetheless, and their stories deserve to be told.

My dad’s … reflections are extremely matter of fact. There’s no fanfare, no sense of nostalgia, no evocations of glory.

“I think I made the best of it,” he says.

… After basic training and advanced individual training, he qualified for Officer Candidate School, where he learned to “square” his meals and engineer roads and bridges.

He ultimately accepted a post as a personnel officer and rose to the rank of first lieutenant. The job involved lots and lots of paperwork, a responsibility that would prepare him well for his future career as an attorney.

“I had no desire to be involved in the military at its core level: People with guns shooting each other,” he told me….

When I ask my dad if his veteran status makes him proud, he has a complicated answer. He said he’s never been able to say he was “proud” of his military service. But he doesn’t feel shame either. I think he just never really had the option to feel anything about it.

“I’m a Vietnam-era veteran. I was there because my country ordered me to be there, and I didn’t have any real choices,” he says. “That’s it.”…

That’s it.

*****

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.