Saturday, March 24, 2012

He is America's Son

Sgt. Bales
It’s time to pick our jaws up off the ground. Stop being so shocked that our active duty troops are falling apart and find a way to help them.  

This last week when the news came out about Sgt. Bales, the soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, (many of them children, and for no apparent reason) sent shock waves around the world. But I was not that surprised. Sickened and saddened- but not surprised.

The first thing I did was go to my facebook page to see what my fellow Marine parents had to say about this. Oddly enough- they were mostly silent save for a few that were immediately fearful for the lives of the troops having to deal with justifiably angry Afghans in the aftermath.  I thought to myself- maybe they all know in their hearts- this could be one of our kids. What could we say?  How should we feel?

I admit my perspective is skewed after all these years as a Marine Mom. After reading thousands and thousands of news articles regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, after receiving 5000 plus US troop death notifications from the DOD in my in box- and after reading everything  ever written about PTSD- yes my perspective is probably not like most peoples.

I work and live in ultra-liberal anti war Marin County. I try not to discuss issues of war with anyone. To me it is personal, war is personal it’s not a theory or a political stance- it’s what my son and his friends have experienced up close and in person. It’s what all my fellow Marine families, and Army families have experienced.  I am very war weary myself. I am not a gung-ho war monger. (I don’t know any mom that is)  I would like nothing better than to see us out of these Arab wars for once and all- but I would like to see us end it without destroying what good we have done and without destroying the sense of duty that our troops have felt over the last 11 years. Without creating more “Vietnam” style vets- that came home to hostile territory, that were told they fought a war that was pointless- that were told they lost arms, legs, eyes, hearing and moral bearing for nothing. There are vet’s that spent years trying to recover and many never did- they still live under bridges, in the woods, on the streets, trapped in crazyville and unable to deal with the world, such as it is, today. No, I don’t want to see that happen again.  It already is though. On any given night- according to the VA and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) they estimate that over 67,000 veterans are homeless. HOW does this happen? WHY are we not taking care of these men and women?

I’m not defending Sgt. Bales actions, but I’m not condemning him either. I think he snapped. I think he saw too many of his friends get blown up and shot up. These are pictures that will NEVER leave his brain. I think he felt a certain amount of survivors guilt and I think he lost all ability to figure out how to fix his unraveling life both in the Army and at home in the US. Like any of us might- (and so few of us can even imagine his world) in an untenable situation, trapped in a hostile, remote part of the world- he snapped.  

I just have to stop for a minute- every time I read an incendiary report about this and try to understand that most people feel there is no reasoning behind the actions Sgt. Bales took. I do understand their anger, I am angry too. My anger is directed towards the people don’t care about our troops who are deployed 15 months (Army) and some many as 5 COMBAT deployments in 5 years (Marines) and my anger is directed  towards the people who constantly say stupid things like “Well, he signed up for this right?”

In the last few years, I have made a concentrated effort to back away from all things Marine Corps, all things war related. I had to for the sake of my own mental health. But my support of our troops and our veterans has never waivered. It never will. I purposely don’t write about these issues because it usually starts some sort of riot. But riot be damned- people need to wake up and understand the facts before they go off on their crusades.

If I were Sgt. Bales mother, I would love him just as much today as the day he was born. Maybe more. And so that is how I think I prefer to think of Sgt Bales. Not as a monster that killed 17 people in cold blood- but as a son who is sick and needs help. He is her son, and he is America’s son. I hope he gets the help he needs.

Side note: I do understand that Afghanistan has been under siege for so many years most of her citizens don’t remember peacetime. I have no doubt they are war weary- and suffer from extreme PTSD. Some of them hate us and some of them tolerate us. Few of them love us. This incident has done severe harm to the tenuous relationship between the allied forces, the US and Afghanistan and we need to be on high alert for retaliation. I’m fairly certain “we” will never be forgiven for the crime against these families. Having said that- I hope we don’t hang Sgt Bales to prove a point to the Afghans’ that we are sincere in our apology. We need to be loyal to our own first.

We need to make it clear to the President of the United States- that it is not okay to treat these hideous incidents as anything other than a horrible case of PTSD and/or TBI or at best temporary insanity. We need to get the word out to as many people as possible that the way our troops and vets are being treated is not acceptable. We need to demand they get the treatment they need. The United States government owes its thanks and protection to these men and women that have sacrificed their lives, limbs and in many cases their very souls to fight terrorism and protect the freedoms we have in the United States. It's up to us to get the word out- do not use Sgt. Bales as a human sacrifice to win some points with the Arab world.