Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why I Want The Draft Back - Or They Take But Never Give

As I write this post I'm sitting in my room looking at the memento's of a life and career in the Army. Each worn and fading object representing a different moment in my life, a different person or persons, place or event that has touched and changed my life in some way. It is a warm comfortable feeling that settles in me as I contemplate these objects because I know that each and everyone of the people and events these objects represent affected me and the course of my life. Some of these gentle and sometimes not so gentle touches were for the good and some for the bad but in the end I can say all for the best. And as I look from one to the other and see the often battle scarred faces and places they represent I like to think that perhaps I have made some small positive difference in their lives. All in all it has been a life I would not trade for all the gold or treasures of the world.

You know, not one part of a soldiers life is easy. Yes, for 20 or 30 years, not one part easy. It seems to cover the whole spectrum from teeth grinding boredom to muscle paralyzing fear and everywhere in between. Did you ever think about that? Did you ever think what must be going on inside of a soldier as they check and double check and recheck their vehicles and gear before going through the gates on yet another patrol or convoy? Did you ever wonder what it's like to be walking a dusty side street in a god forsaken dirty desert town not knowing what's in the next doorway or what's around the next corner or on the next roof? Did you ever wonder what's going through their minds as they ride down some dusty street not knowing which bump is going to be an IED that's going to send shrapnel and vehicle parts trough their bodies and rip off their arms and legs?...........Do you know what's not on their minds? Medals aren't on their minds. Ribbons and plaques are not on their minds and ticker tape parades are not on their minds. If they're smart and lucky the sounds and smells and sights of the moment are on their minds because that's all that is going to keep them alive for this one more patrol. If they're unlucky, their moms and dads and wives and children are on their minds and because they are on their minds they'll make a mistake and they won't go back to see those they love or at least they won't go back in one piece. Think about that for a moment. Can you just imagine how hard it must be? Can you imagine how hard it must be to make yourself not think about those you love; to not think about those you love just when that is what you want and need so badly it hurts down in your guts?

These are the things that I think about every single day. Every day I think about soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Europe and all over the world. I think of them in stifling desert heat and sand and waist deep mountain snow. I think of them in rocky holes in high mountains and knee deep mud in tropical swamps. I think of them with their families on a post or base in Kentucky, Texas, Georgia or North Carolina and I think of them alone on the deck of some ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I think about them, their families and friends think about them, and if you're reading this you probably think about them but, believe it or not there are thousands if not millions who do not think about them. They do not think about them because they do not have to think about them. These are the same thousands if not millions who are reaping the bounty of these soldiers' sacrifices. These are the same thousands if not millions who choose to not think about the soldiers because they and their little world are safe and neither they nor their children have to serve or sacrifice.

This is the folly of not having a national service obligation. This absence of an obligation to serve allows people to become lazy and disconnected from the broader world. It allows them to retreat into their consumer world of Wal-Mart and Target or into their neighborhood mall and not think about the thousands of innocent people who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan or the thousands of soldiers who are bleeding and dying for them around the world. It allows them to ignore the poverty right here in America and certainly the rest of the world. It allows them to suffer the elements by standing in line for days to buy the first new video game system but not to stand in line to vote. They think that it is their God given right to mindlessly shop and drive and to burn precious fuel because "that's why God put it here"; he put it here just so I can drive to the mall. These people are so lazy and self absorbed that they cannot find the intestinal fortitude or presence of mind to take the one action most readily available to them and every other American and the one action in their immediate possession to defend the constitution and that act is the simple act of voting.

It is my thought that the absence of a national service obligation has created an elitist attitude among a large number of people in this country who believe it is the responsibility of someone else to defend the nation and it is the responsibility of someone else to fight terrorism. This lack of national service obligation has created, not an atmosphere of shared responsibility, but a self-serving atmosphere of you go and die for your country or send your child but leave me and my child alone. And, this atmosphere of self-centered elitism was, if not created then certainly fueled by George W. Bush and his administration. It is also George W. Bush and his administration along with the other elitist that hold a lions share of the responsibility for our being in Iraq today and for our failed foreign and domestic policies.

I must add that I believe it is the millions of non-voters who have, by their inaction, allowed the radical minority to determine the fate and direction of our nation. In the day of the volunteer military it is perhaps reasonable that people choose not to serve in the military and perhaps it is even reasonable that they not serve their nation in some civil capacity but it is absolutely unforgivable that they would not walk out their door and go to a voting booth and at least cast their vote in defense of the constitution and this is the very reason I champion national service. We citizens of this great nation who do defend our country and our constitution deserve to have that gift and burden shared. We deserve to have it shared by all and that includes those elitist who think it beneath them as well as those who are so apathetic and unpatriotic as to not vote. I believe this is true even if it means a mandatory national service obligation for ALL citizens of this great nation.

Those Are The Sergent Major's Thoughts On That.

Where The Brave Have Fallen - Bush In Vietnam

Do you feel it George? Like a cold chill it starts at the back of your neck and radiates down through your body. It is the breath of the many brave soldiers who fell where you now stand. It is the sound of your conscience trying to get the attention you so callously and cavalierly refuse to give it. It is the cold breeze of guilt George; you know the guilt you felt when you chose the easy way and the guilt you should feel now. I know you felt the guilt back then George because that was why you drank wasn't it? You had a conscience back then and the alcohol helped numb it didn't it. At least for a little while George but only for a little while.

Do you remember that day back on May 27th, 1968? I know you remember it because that's the day you raised your hand to take an oath you'd never live up to isn't it. I remember that day very well George, because I was in infantry training and on my way to Vietnam doing what I raised my hand and swore to do. But mostly I remember because many of my friends were dying in Vietnam on that day. They were there where you stand today but they were bleeding and they were serving their country and fulfilling the oaths they took.

Why George? Why did you run away? Why are you still running away George?

Do you feel it George? It's the breath of those many brave soldiers who fell and are falling in Iraq; that place you are talking about today. It is the sound of your conscience still trying to get the attention you continue to refuse to give it.

Those Are The Sergent Major's Thoughts On That.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You Can Call It Hubris - I Call It Uncaring Criminal Arrogance

As I read the newspapers, online and off line, and listen to the pundits and uniformed lapdogs that call themselves "Generals" I grow more angry and dismayed. It is my belief, having paid some attention, that anyone who lived through the 2000 election, the events of September 11, 2001, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq should be able to deduce and understand that this country was led to war by the Bush administration through blatant deceit.

In numerous posts in the past I have tried to contemplate, discuss, and share thoughts that I believe to be of some significant consequence to citizens, soldiers, and their families. I have spoken of leadership, courage, honor, trust, faith, and dedication to nation and constitution. These are all concepts, ideas, and beliefs that I believe have helped to forge this great nation. Yes, it is true that our history is filled with these honorable concepts, ideas and beliefs but it is also filled with the deepest depths of depravity, malice, and injustice as evidenced by our historic treatment of Native and African Americans and seemingly any other minority that has had the poor misfortune to cross our path. Please understand that I am not making light of what we have, as a nation, done to these peoples but that I am at this moment focusing on that aspect of our national Psyche that strives for the better. That being said, the one thing that I have always believed has made America truly great and made it stand out among all nations is our continuing struggle to achieve a higher moral goal and to try to live by those greater ideals. I believe that in spite of our weak individual human failings we have, as a nation, always been moved, inspired, and drawn to struggle to achieve the hard right and just.

With those thoughts in mind and simply said, the Bush administrations actions in Iraq were not and are not part of our national struggle to achieve the hard right and just. It has not been and is not part of our continuing struggle to achieve a higher moral goal. Invading Iraq was neither right nor just nor was it in the best interest of the United States but to the contrary it was in all likelihood probably a criminal act. As the titular head of of the nation we expect our President to move boldly but with a large measure of moral caution. We expect our President to act with the moral grounding which we as a nation strive to achieve. I believe that the invasion of Afghanistan was both bold and morally cautious and I do believe it was a legitimate part of our great struggle not only to fight global terrorism but also to do the right and just thing. But then in his arrogance and greed, and perhaps with a smidgen of vindictiveness, the President turned our nations might in the wrong direction. The President did this at the reckless peril of us all, and while using blatantly false information to justify his unilateral and preemptive invasion. This single malicious act has resulted in our now being bogged down in an unnecessary civil war and on the verge of perhaps having caused the complete destabilization of a region that is, at this moment in history, of almost incomprehensible strategic importance to our nation.

As we struggle to find a way out of Iraq that does not leave a destabilized country and region it is important that we realize that this situation was caused by one person and their administration. It was caused by coercion, lies, and deceit perpetrated by the President and Vice President of the United States and members of their administration. Yes, we Americans share part of the responsibility because even after the 2000 election we reelected this administration and allowed the continued ravaging of a nation but ultimately the responsibility lies with the President and he should be held accountable by the Congress and the citizens of this great nation. Unfortunately we must maintain a stable Middle East because until we achieve energy independence we are strategically vulnerable. So yes, struggle we must, and sacrifice, and even fight to return stability to Iraq and the entire Middle Eastern region but let us not forget who was and is responsible for the carnage. Let us not forget whose inability to lead brought us to this point. Let us not forget whose inability to face the reality of the situation even today, continues to cost this nation its treasure in the form of human life, limb, and blood and continues to cost Iraq the lives, limbs, and blood of its citizens.

It is time for the President and his administration to face reality. It is time for the Senate and Congress to quit playing political games and bring trust and honor to Washington. It is our nations very survival that is at stake. As our soldiers continue to fight, bleed, and often die so must the citizens of this nation fulfill their obligation to the nation and fight for the hard right and just. We citizens must hold our newly elected Congress and Senate to task. We have no time for infighting and backstabbing. We have elected these men and women to go to Washington to do a job and not to collect money from lobbyist and squabble over committee seats. I say to Congress and the Senate, 'get to work' and to the President I say, admit your gross errors and arrogance and get to work cleaning up your mess. That is if you have the moral fiber Mr. President.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

As I Sit And Ponder - Or A Matter Of Trust

As I sit and ponder the state of our nation and my military career and service I am "disheartened"; in much the same way a certain General recently said he is "disheartened" by the situation in Iraq. Why you might ask am I pondering the state of our nation and my career these many years later. Well, simply put, I am where I am as a result of observing where our nation stands today and how we arrived at where we are but mostly it's a matter of pondering a trust lost. The Sergeant Majors thoughts are below the fold.

Today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Germany, and a thousand other geographic points there are thousands upon thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen serving their country. Why do you think those soldiers serve? I have heard any number of answers to that question over the years. They join for the educational benefits. They join because it's the only way out of abject poverty. They join because they want "adventure". Hell they even say they join because the judge told them that was the better of two choices. Well you know what? They join for all of those reasons and many many more but I know why they stay. They stay because it's a hard life of service to their country and the constitution and because they trust their leaders.

In my military career one 'most desired' and 'respected' virtue always stood out more than any other and that virtue was "trust". You were expected from day one to be trustworthy and to trust. Regardless of what aspect of military life you looked at it was all based on trust. You began to see it as a young soldier in basic training/boot camp when it was driven into your very soul that you take care of your buddy. That person who would share your foxhole for the "duration". Everything depended on the knowledge that your buddy would take care of you and you would take care of your buddy. You trusted each other more than brothers or sisters. The second part of that shared knowledge was that your leader would take care of you and your buddy and you would take care of your leader. It was about trust. My leader could trust that I would follow orders and I could trust my leader to give me the correct order. This concept, this sacred blood bond, was driven into your very being that you could trust your leader to never ask you to do something he or she would not do themselves and that they would stand right beside you and be the first up the hill and your shared survival and that of your nation depended on trusting one another. Any soldier, sailor, marine or airman understands this reality without question.

As I read this article it became crystal clear to me that our soldiers have come to realize that this most sacred of bonds has been and is being broken. They have come to realize that they cannot trust their leadership. This thought hurts and frightens me down to my core. It is important to understand that for a soldier to fight and fight well he or she must trust their leaders to not just provide them with the necessary tools to accomplish the mission such as armored vehicles, body armor and bullets but they must also be able to trust their leaders to take care of their families.

This trust has been violated one time to many and now the truth is obviously spreading through the ranks of our military. Our soldiers are coming to realize that this administration, this Presidents has not and is not supporting the troops. The reason the American military has been successful in its over two hundred year history is one that no, and I do mean no, other countries army has had and that reason was trust based on a constitution that guaranteed a government of the people and by the people. Well they no longer have that trust based on that constitution because the Bush administration has systematically destroyed that constitution and through repeated lies and deceit destroyed that trust.

On November the seventh the American electorate spoke loud and clear and our Congress and Senate have been changed and as if by punctuation this past weekend many Americans observed Veteran's Day. As we move forward I hope and pray that the Congress and Senate understand that the American people want leadership that they can trust. It is time this President understands that he is accountable to the American people and that our precious treasure is not one to be squandered on self centered idealogical and radical goals.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts On That.