Friday, May 2, 2014

Remember the Fallen

When I first started my blog several years ago—from time to time I would give a report on all of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq that have lost their lives serving in our military. I called these blog posts “Remember the Fallen.” Week after sad week I listed the names of those killed, their ages and where they were from. I felt strongly then—and still do—that while we are at home having mostly the good life there are fine women and men who have given their lives while we have sacrificed little if anything. This is the first war in our whole history in which we did not raise taxes to pay the bill. Any wonder we are in an economic mess?

The statistics from Iraq and Afghanistan are still grim:
  • Death of service personnel in Iraq (through 2014)  4,406
  • Death of service personnel in Afghanistan (through 2014)  2,179
  • Number of Traumatic Brain Injuries  287,981 (this could not be right, I thought—so I double-checked. This number might be low.)
  • Number of PTSD, Traumatic brain injuries and other related conditions – half-million men and women.
  • The soldiers who are engaged in repeated deployments are more likely to commit suicide. Some are deployed four-five times.
  • 22 Veterans commit suicide every day of the year.

So as we remember the fallen—we must also remember all those who have come home from these wars broken and wounded. We could also add their families—wives, husbands and children who now live in a household whose world has been turned upside down.

David Finkel of The Washington Post has written two splendid books about the longest wars in our history. In 2009 he published a book called The Good Soldier. He went to Iraq and followed one Infantry battalion and lived with them eight months. Out of that experience he has told us what that war was like in personal terms.

In 2013 Mr. Finkel published a sequel to his first book called, Thank You For Your Service. He writes about this same battalion after they came home. The results will break your heart. None returned as they were before their deployments. Finkel writes particularly about their wounds that are not always visible. What he found was anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, sleeplessness, self-abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.

One of the returnees was taking 40 pills a day. Bureaucratic help was a nightmare--and still is. Just to gain entrance to one program that was purported to help one soldier had to collect 39 different signatures from different persons before he could be admitted to the program that might help.

We do our veterans and their families a great disservice when we do not provide the help they need after they return home.

Brian Turner, war poet of these two wars has a book of poems called, Here, Bullet. This seems to be a good way to end this sad blog.

 April. And the air dry
as the shoulders of a water buffalo.

Grasshoppers scratch as the dirt,
Rub their wings with thin legs,
Flaring out in front of the soldiers
In low arching flights, wings a blur.

The soldiers don’t notice anymore,
Seeing only the wreckage of the streets,
bodies draped with sheets, and the sun,
how bright it is, how hard and flat and white.

It will take many nail from the coffinmakers
to shut out this light, which reflects off everything:
the calloused feet of the dead, their bony hands,
their pale foreheads so cold, brilliant in the sun.”
  --Brian Turner, Here, Bullet, “How Bright It is”

We cannot forget our fallen. Not only do they lie in some grave--but they are scattered across this country.

--Roger Lovette/

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this commentary, Roger. For me, it is also sad and disheartening that we have come to live in what seems to be a constant state of war in service to the Empire.