Friday, January 25, 2013

A Step Forward or Three Giant Steps Back?

The weekend after my son game home from Iraq we took a long drive. He started talking and continued to share story after story with me that made me so sad as I listened and talked with him.  He left the states as a boy; he came back as a man. He left with a healthy brain; he came back with PTSD that haunted him for months. His sleep life was routinely interrupted with him screaming as one nightmare after another possessed him during times when his brain should be at peace.  His experience came to the forefront of my mind after hearing something on the radio recently while driving to work. The news kept coming back to mind after several days as I thought about my changing views of women, now that I am married to a dominant wife. I view women differently than I did years ago.  I respect them more. I make more of an effort to honor them, look out for them and value them as special.

Let me share some of what my son told me while we drove. He talked mostly. I listened mostly. His words were spoken several years ago, yet this particular drive remains so vivid in my mind, probably because of the subject matter.  Here are a few brief recollections from that drive

Story 1. A few weeks after he arrived in Iraq he was on patrol. He entered a house and encountered an insurgent. He was too close to fire his weapon and so pulled his K-bar and instinctively thrust it into the guys gut and yanked it upward, gutting the man. He looked to his left and saw the man’s wife and children cowering in the corner, horrified at what they had just witnessed.  He left and went to the next home.

Story 2. A fellow soldier standing a few feet from him was hit by an RPG – a rocket propelled grenade. Both legs were blown off on impact. He and a medic applied pressure as blood poured from the wound and all over them. The medic told the marine manning the 50 caliber gun on the Humvee to ‘burn the barrel’. He continued to fire until the barrel overheated. They removed it and cauterized the man’s legs with the glowing hot piece of steel. The marine later died. My son stripped out of all his clothes and burnt them in the trash when they returned to base.  He called his sister and sobbed on the phone. Not able to tell her the whole story, he told her enough to know that something terrible happened. He begged her again and again to not tell mom and dad.  She didn’t.

Story 3. While on patrol he found a IED - an improvised explosive device. He took the detonator and wire and kept it with him. Later he found a package of C4 (plastic explosive) when he was on base. Actually he stole the C4. He kept it with him as well. One day on patrol his fire team entered a home. They could hear movement on the second floor. Knowing that whoever attempted to go up the stairs was going to be shot, he pointed to the C4 and detonator he had and then to the ceiling. His Fire-team leader nodded with approval.  He stuck the C4 to the ceiling, having never done this before, nor been trained with this material, attached wires, left the house, curled up and detonated it. He had used way more than he needed. He told me the house literally went ‘straight up’. They found body parts, twisted and mangled weapons everywhere.  No US soldier was killed yet he had to view the destruction he caused.

Story 4: In a fire fight he shot and killed several insurgents. After the battle they investigated the house where the shooting was coming from. There he found a still-alive but dying man. Knowing he had fought valiantly he put two bullets into his chest at close range to quicken his death and ease his pain.

Story 5: While on patrol they spotted an enemy soldier setting up an IED. They turned their Humvee in his direction and chased him until they caught him and ran him over. They backed up and crushed his body.

Story 6: A week or so before he returned home I attended a briefing with Marine officers. The purpose of the meeting was to talk to parents, family, and friends about what to expect from their loved ones. I distinctly remember them telling us that they didn’t expect much of an adjustment since they were not involved in any of the surges where combat and stress was quite high.

Story 7: Several months after he had come home, we shared a drink together in a bar. Sitting at a corner table he told me that anytime he came to this bar, he sat here and had a knife hidden under both legs, and two more on his body elsewhere. He said that a month after he had come home he realized that ‘nobody here wants to kill me’ and afterward never brought weapons with him when he went to town. How sad that he still felt that level of stress back in a place he had beforehand felt so safe.

I could go on and on but will stop here. I mention this because of the news of women now being permitted to perform combat duty on the front lines. This is what the US military is allowing people like my daughter, or your daughter, or your wife to now experience. The ACLU pushed for the honor of allowing women to be right up front and close so they can gut others, kill others, see the gruesome aspect of war up close and in person.  War is a horrible thing. Killing is senseless. My son came home with nightmares. He came home a different person. He killed A LOT of people. He saw a fellow soldier die. He had his blood all over him. He smelled burning flesh. I wonder if the eyes of the wife whose husband he gutted haunt him. I wonder if he lost the desire to preserve life at all costs after killing so many men at close range. I wonder if he cowers when he hears firecrackers on the 4th of July. He was 19 years old when he took so many lives.  `

And we call this progress? We now believe that we’ve taken a step forward as a nation to allow not only our sons to kill and be killed but now our daughters? It’s easy to say from afar, without knowing the reality of the horror of war, to believe this is a great day for women.  I would question that belief.  For me, this is a sad day. I wish for no one to experience the few things my son experienced. I would never wish for your wife or daughter to have a similar experience.  This is not exalting women. This is not recognizing them as superior. This is not honoring them. This is so wrong.

I’m Hers

17 comments:

  1. Mr. IH,

    My condolences for your son’s PTSD as a result of his service. I agree warfare is a poor choice for nations to elect to solve their differences. The human toll is staggering as you eloquently shared with us.

    I believe women being honored through military decoration to be a sincere gesture the President has extended to them for their service to our country. Opening up combat roles to women recognizes their abilities in doing so. I for one, applaud him doing so.

    I would agree with you though. Putting anyone in a situation where your son was placed is something I feel is done far too much with a cavalier stance. Instead, it should be only when there is simply no other choice.

    Again, I extend my condolences to you for your son’s mental injury.

    -SH

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    1. BTW, I too have a nephew who has served. He graduated Annapolis and became a commissioned officer. He served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He is now a Special Agent in the FBI in the counter terrorism task force.

      I too know the tool warfare can have on a person as he too is a changed person as a result of his service.

      Sincerely…

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  2. And that is my very point with regard to respecting an honoring women. Do we honor them more by decorating them after their minds have all been forever-altered, or do we honor them more by protecting them from ever having to experience such horrors?

    As for my son, he's recovered from the PDST but the memories will forever be there. There is something to be said for maintaining one's innocence.

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    1. Mr. IH,

      Glad to hear your son has been treated and recovered. It is true the past can never be undone. Perhaps the best we can pray for is solace in accepting it and some measure of peace.

      As for women, if the suggestion is their minds are too frail, I would respectfully disagree. The healthcare profession which the workers need confront life and death routinely is quickly becoming female dominated professions.

      If instead you are suggesting men take damage so women need not, that is a chivalrous notion which I too agree with, but fear it does not have common acceptance in today’s reality.

      Sincerely,

      -SH

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    2. Mr. SH, let m personalize this. Would you wish for your wife to be a nurse that cares for the elderly or to routinely see ripped open flesh from car accidents, crush injuries, amputations, 3rd degree burns, impaled objects, eviscerations,etc?

      In so many of your past posts you commend women as being more intelligent, more able to do those things that are of 'greater good' to mankind. Serving as a Grunt in the millitary would not fall into that catetory. Grunts are taught to kill. Here's another story: My son would IM me, telling me how strong he was getting from lifting. He told me he was taking supplements and used such terms as stacking, pyramidding, etc. He also told me that it seemed like all they (his fellow soldiers did was fight). I put 2 and 2 together and realized he was taking anabolic steriods. I new a millitary physician and asked if the millitary uses them and was told that 'they make them available'. It made total sense. My son was employed as a killing machine. Agressiveness is adventagious in such situations. Thus the dramatic increase in weight and muscle that he experienced - and subsequently lost when he returned. But at the time, that was another part of his experience.

      I am under the impression that opening opportunities for women is something you advocate, and to a large measure I agree. Yet I believe you would also advocate elevating, honoring, adoring, revering, etc women as well. A woman serving as a grunt is not one such experience/profession. If i had to make a choice for either a son or daughter to serve, I'd choose my son without hesitation, and then pray for his safe return. I'd never want my daughter to have such an experience. Never.

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    3. Mr. IH,

      Yes, you did well at putting into words what I was attempting to. Thank you.

      To answer your question directly, there are many horrors in this world. Some I would not wish on my worst enemy. For instance, harming those you love and cherish against your will. That is something I find too horrible to fathom and something I would not wish my worst enemy to have to go through.

      I would not put limits on women that men do not have. I feel that simply unfair. This includes military service and combat roles.

      I do find it of comfort that Barak Obama was re-elected though. He has made it clear he does not enjoy warfare. He ended the war in Iraq as he said he would and is in the process of doing so in Afghanistan. Modern feminists consider him to uphold their ideals and I feel a world where women made government decisions would be a world all but void of warfare and think we are headed in that direction. IMHO, we would all be better off in a matriarchal world.

      Take care.

      -SH

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  3. IM,

    Thank you for such an eloquently written piece. I think the american people would have a much less appetite for war if they experienced the horror of it first hand. Unfortunately, the only way to handle someone who will stop at nothing to kill you is to kill him first. I have a good friend and neighbor who just retired after 23+ yrs in the Army. As a gunnery sergeant, he did two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Many times over an adult beverage we have talked and he has hinted at some of what he has experienced and openly acknowledges he needs help. It is quite difficult for them to transition back to civilian life. Please make sure your son gets the help he needs. Leave no stone unturned. Though it doesn't count for much, my opinion of the whole middle east conflict is that I don't think that whole part of the world is worth the life of any of our brave soldiers. They have been fighting for thousands of years over there and will be fighting for many more.

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  4. Thanks Wishful for sharing. Somethings should not be thought of as a priviliage, no matter what gender, age or status one holds. Killing and seeing killing is one such thing. I know it's a part of life from a worldly perspective but it is truly a nasty thing to do. I never new why 80 year old guys would cry when returning to the Beaches of Normandy, or other Pearl Harbor or other such momentous battles. I mean it was 60 years ago - get over it. That was my thinking. Now the my son has served and I felt a little closer to his experiences (having never served myself) I now know why. Those memories never leave. Hopefully few women will make the choice to to enter infantry.
    Take care friend.

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  5. I am so sorry your son has suffered such brutality not only over seas but probably every day since.

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    1. Miss Christina, Thank you but my post was not about him. My post was about YOU, and other young women like you - your girlfriends, your younger sister (if you have one) and similar. The post is about opening up doors for 'equality' to women in the area of our millitary. I'd love to hear your thoughts as a woman on this topic. Are you glad that we have decided to permit women to experience combat? Are you glad we have removed this inequality? Love to hear your thoughts.

      The stories of my son were to lend perspective of what one person saw while in sporadic combat in the hopes of helping others see what the decision by our US government means practically for the female gender.

      Hope you stop back again.

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  6. You are right, I don't think that women should be going into combat, and I think it is a shame men have to do that too. I don't believe that women shouldn't have rights or that women rule the world, but I do believe that I would not want to be in combat myself or know that my baby sister was in combat, and I really don't know if young men should be put in that place either, but I do feel that when it comes to experiencing horrors your son faced that women should be protected from that, not sent off into the middle of it. If Jay and I were to be put in a situation where we were both in danger of dying, I know that he would do everything he could to protect me, and even though I am dominant woman and like to be in control, and even though it would kill me in a way not to be able to save the one I love somehow, I think in the moment I would let him give his life for me because I know that would make him happier than if I died for him and he lived. Even though I am a dominant and I love my slave to make me happy and worship me, I am the keeper of his happiness, I am the one to fulfill his needs, even if mine come first...so while I would not be happy to love without him and would probably later wish I had died and not him, I know that it would make Jay happier if I let him protect me and I lived. Although I really hope this never comes to fruition. I do feel that women should be honored, especailly the good ones, but not because of any philisophy that women are number one and men are crap, but rather because I think it is very honorable for a man to protect a woman. When I think of all the women out there risking their lives for our country and I know there are millions of dead beat drug adict men here sitting on their asses not working it just goes to show how much improvement this country that so many people risk their lives to protect, needs.

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  7. How to honor women: do not try to protect us from our own decisions.

    My heart goes out to your family and to the families overseas. Thank you for your post.

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  8. I agree with the anonymous commentor above.

    Should women be permitted to experience combat if they want to and qualify? - Definitely yes.*

    Why do you want to keep patronizing them? Let them decide for themselves.

    *Well, actually, in my opinion, no-one should experience combat, but we don't live in an ideal world. And I prefer to have people fight who do it voluntarily (irrespective of their gender) than people who are drafted and forced to do it.

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    1. Anonymous and Tamara,
      Thanks for writing. I guess we can agree to disagree. Sometimes the world needs to protect those from what they have no idea about. I knew about war. I grew up watching it on TV, but I never really, and that's the key word, knew about it until I saw it through the eyes of one so close to me. It was then that I had so many regrets that he had to be forever changed. Do you really think an 18 year old has any clue what they are getting into? Really? I doubt it. But the decision here in the US has been made so I will live with it.

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  9. As a veteran of both Operations I appreciate your blog post and wish that I could share it elsewhere. Your insight about your son's experience and the value of women in accordance with the supreme nature of their creation is spot on. The drive to place women in direct action jobs is political and the females in uniform or have previously served that I know, do not support this policy. I know there are a few, but they are the exception not the rule. There is talk about the fact that women already serve "outside the wire" and I know many have done so honorably and heroically. But there is a huge difference in what happens in a person mentally, emotionally and spiritually when their sole purpose in life becomes killing and maiming the enemy and ultimately attempting to decimate a way of life. America remains so far removed from the realities of how hated we really are, that we are willing to politicize and trivialize the combat zone in the name of equality, without considering the fact that we have no understanding of the long term implications of placing 19 year old Girls on the offensive.

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    1. Thank you!!!! Thank you for sharing as one that "has been there and done that". I really think it takes men like yourself and my son to really enlighten those that are closest to you. Hearing stories on TV really don't drive the fact of how inhuman war can be because we (the public) don't have an emotional relationship with the person talking. Words by those people touch us but nothing touches us like that of words coming from a son or husband. I commend you for your service and hope you are able to share your wisdom with others that are willing to listen. Feel free to share what I've written with whomever you wish.

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