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Victor_c3

Profile Information

Member since: Wed Aug 15, 2012, 02:17 PM
Number of posts: 2,596

About Me

I grew up hardcore Republican and conservative (although I never agreed with the religious portion of the party) and I even voted for Bush in 2000. (However, by 2004 I realized that was a mistake) I joined the Army in 1997, when I was 17 years old and my parents had to sign a waiver to get me in that young. I later went to college, obtained a degree in chemistry, and received a commission in the US Army where I served as an Infantry Officer from May 2002 until I was discharged in October 2007. While I was in the Army, I would consider myself your typical hardcore junior officer. I spent some time in Ranger School, did the typical stint at Airborne School, and I even had grandiose dreams giving it a shot at Special Forces selection. However, I deployed to Iraq as an Infantry Platoon Leader from Feb 2004 through Mar 2005. Seeing and being involved in combat as intimately as an Infantryman does really shook up a lot of my core beliefs. I could write an essay on this, but in short I now lean hard to the left with much of my political views.

Journal Archives

I get it too

I haven't actually had an attempt, but suicide is on my mind a lot. If I didn't have my two little girls and I'm almost positive I wouldn't be around right now. My 2 year old and 4 year old daughters would be ruined if I weren't in the picture anymore.

Combat, at least for me, really took away my concern for myself. I got to the point that I just didn't care anymore while I was deployed and, to a large degree, it is still there.

(by the way, I'm also actively receiving treatment at the VA)

I would love to see more stuff like the diary you mentioned out there for the public to read. I've been mulling over various ideas for books that I'd like to see written regarding combat and how hard it is for vets to return to normal life after war for years. I've even written a couple of short sections and I have a rough outline of what I'd like it to be. To prevent frivolous wars from being inflicted on our kids, us struggling vets need to get our stories out there.

War, as most of us know, doesn't end when you leave the combat zone.

Nice quote

I find the stark contrast between quotes like the one posted above and even quotes from other Republicans like John McCain regarding war compared to quotes regarding the glory of war issued by guys like Romney and George W. Bush startling. I can't think of anyone who has actually experienced combat who has said anything positive about the glory of it. But I sure hear plenty of quotes citing how envious they (Romney and W. Bush) are when they talk to troops getting ready to deploy to combat or when they talk to groups Vietnam veterans about the glory of combat that they missed out on.

I'm all for the seperation of powers built into our government and the fact that a civilian is the commander and chief of our military, but at the same time I'm also worried that someone who has no concept of the brutality of war is in a position to wage it.

thanks again

I believe that there is a large segment of our population that feels like you do. Also, remember that it is a volunteer army and I joined on my own free will (although I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into). The guys I really feel for are the Vietnam era guys who were drafted and got the raw deal all around. At least I was able to come home and not be labeled a baby-killer and people sincerely do wish the best for out veterans. The VA, as strained as it may be, is much better suited to care for veterans today than it was during the Vietnam era and there is a lot more support out there.

As an aside, I remember shortly after 9/11 seeing a story on the news about a group of people who were calling themselves "anti-recruiters" who posted themselves outside of recruiting stations to try to deter people from enlisting. They were all Vietnam era veterans who were broken by the war who were trying to inject a sense of reality into potential recruits before they enlisted. I saw this long before I personally was deployed and I remember thinking "what a piece of shit" and "how could someone do something like that?" Geeze, I sure was wrong on that one. Unfortunately I didn't realize it until I already found myself engulfed in the war. If/when another war is on the horizon, I'll be there outside of a recruiting station doing the same thing. I can gurantee it.

I really hate the violence in our media and what our kids are exposed to in the terms of games and everything else. I think the unrealistic portrayal of war in movies and in games glorifies war and combat to an extent and helps to make it easier for our country to send troops to Bush's Follies for "glory". Its just like the inconsequential violence that people complained about being portrayed in cartoons like Tom and Jerry where nobody really gets hurt when someone is smacked in the head with a hammer.

Anyways, I'm preaching to the converted here. Again, I appreciate your words and support.

Thanks

Thanks for the kind words. I don't know how I could help a fellow veteran other than just letting them know that they aren't alone. I do post on veterans forums from time to time. I really feel sorry for the doctors at the VA who have to hear all of the horrors of war from guys like me and who see first hand how it affects not only the veteran, but their families too. It has to be a hard job.

My experiences in Iraq have spurred a very anti-war position in me. I mentioned this in another thread, but the one thing that appalled me the most about the violence in the war is that hardly any of it is shown to the American people. George W. was smart when he banned the press from taking pictures of coffins returning from Iraq. Displays and visual references to people dying in war is bad for its support. The ratio of civilians killed to soldiers killed in combat is a staggering 10:1 (straight out of wikipedia, I can find the link if anyone is interested in citing that statistic). If people in America saw first hand the dead and mangled women and children this war produced, the support would have vanished a lot sooner. As a veteran who is appalled by the war, I feel it is my duty to portray the realities of combat to people who have no idea what it is all about. I'm slowly coming out of my shell on talking about the war but I feel it is my duty.

I somehow ended up with a whole pile of pictures of dead and mangled people. After a firefight, I had to take pictures of the dead and submit them with my AARs (after action reviews). So I inadvertantly have a whole pile of this crap somewhere. I believe it is considered confidential material and I think it is illegal to distribute these sorts of pictures. I honestly don't know why I still have them. I just can't bring myself to get rid of them. They are rough and raw, but it helps to convey the brutality. For instance some guy decided it'd be a good idea to attack one of my Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFV) while wearing a suicide vest. The only person who was hurt during the attack was the attacker (who obviously died), but I have a picture of a Sergeant looking really pissed off picking up pieces and stuffing them in a garbage bag with the blood-splattered BFV in the background. If it wasn't for the cold brutality of it, it'd be a funny picture.

I really loved the military, what it stands for, and the people I worked with. I'd say most people who are in the Army are good people and strive to do the right thing. However, there are people at the top who, in my opinion, misuse the Army. The bottom line, and this is something that I should have realized when I was 17, is that unless you are willing to deal with war, you should never join. The real kicker is you have no idea what war is really like until you actually experience it. You can read and watch all the movies you want, but it still is hard to portray just how devastating and traumatic war actually is.

It is a significantly emotional event when you pull one of your dead Soldiers out of a ditch and hold his cold hand while your medic tries to resuscitate them. It is even harder when you make it home and you talk to your Soldier's mother and she wants to know the details of her son's death. To talk about it is one thing, but to actually demonstrate how much it sucks and to get people to internalize it is the hard part.

I would love to write a book one day and I do have a couple of ideas, but I'm not ready for that yet for a variety of reasons.

As far as the community idea goes, I think that isn't a bad idea. I got back from Iraq in March 2005, but stuck around in the Army until October 2007. I managed to get a cushy job at Range Control to ride out the majority of the rest of my time where I helped units align their training objectives to a variety of live-fire training ranges. I really took that job to heart as I was a junior Captain and I saw a whole bunch of even more junior Lieutenants getting ready to deploy to combat for their first time and I wanted to prepare them the best I could for what the war was going to be like. Anyways, back to the community idea, I found that things weren't so bad for me and my PTSD while I was still in the Army. A lot of the guys around me were all dealing with the same issues and being around the military community was very comforting to me. Sometimes they'd be firing artillery from a firing position on one of the far sides of the training area, the rounds would fly over our building, and land in the impact area several miles away. We'd all be going totally crazy from hearing and feeling the sounds of artillery and just look at each other and laugh.

I've read some things recently that community service is of tremendous benefit to veterans recovering from their issues with the war, which ties directly into your idea.

The biggest hindrance to me and actually submitting myself to an intensive in house PTSD/war trauma program offered by the VA is I have a young family and I have bills I have to pay. I can't take that sort of time off from work.

The suicide part of war is tough.

Anyways, thanks again.

another aside

It's kind of funny, but you know you're messed up when you memorize the suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK, option 1)

Just curious, but when were you there?

You sound like an OIF I guy if I had to guess. I can't argue with you over the poor leadership at the top of the military during the early stages of the war (including planning).

I was there during OIF II (Feb 2004 - Mar 2005). I was an Infantry Platoon Leader with 2-2 IN BN/3 BDE/1 ID and my platoon was attached to the 82nd Engineer Battalion for the duration of the deployment. I personally didn't have issues with a lack of armored vehicles, but then again I had Bradley Fighting Vehicles equiped with reactive armor. The HMMWVs and 113s the engineers I was attached to had were a different story. Their HMMWVs all started out as unarmored, but they quickly welded a whole bunch of steel plates all over these things. I remember having to ride around in HMMWVs with my knees up to my chest because we had stashed sand bags all on the floor of the vehicles to help protect the occupants.

As far as leadership goes, I think a lot of it was hit or miss. I'd like to think that I was a good leader, but I'm obviously biased towards myself. Many of the SSGs and the Platoon Sergeant that worked under me were phenomenal and are exactly what I attribute my success to. Some of my fellow LTs were dirt bags. I was thrown out into sector for a 24 hour firefight under the command of a complete POS company commander (he was relieved the following day after the firefight), but there were many awesome company commanders out there as well. I loved my BDE commander (COL Dana J.H. Pittard) and my division commander (MG Batiste). In fact MG Batiste speaks out from time to time for votevets.org. If either of those guys were to run for president in the future, they'd get my vote. The biggest leadership issues I saw were at very top. The tippity top made some amazingly stupid decisions that impacted the war for its entire duration. Why the hell would you disband the Iraqi military and let them all go home with their weapons?

I don't think that "service" no longer being a core American value is the full reason why have low troop numbers, however I think I understand what you are trying to say and I do agree with you to a point. If anything, my experience in the war pushed service out of my "core values". I joined the army when I was 17 in 1997 (my parents had to sign a waiver) and I saw what we were doing in the Balkans and I believed that pointless wars like some in the past would no longer happen. I joined for the opportunities to help myself get ahead in life, but also because I thought that I would contribute something positive to the world. I received my commision in May '02, spent a while at Ft. Benning, then eventually made it to my unit just in time to deploy for OIF II. I never agreed with the premise of the war in Iraq from the get-go, but I obligated myself to our military and I was determined to bring as much good as I could to the Iraqi people in my sector. After my first series of firefights and after seeing the impact of my weapons on people (both combatants and non-combatants) I really started to feel ashamed of the war and what I was a part of.

The most upsetting experience for me wasn't even the most intense in terms of combat. I was escorting my company commander and 1SG to a town meeting and my 1SG's HMMWV was hit by an IED. My gunner identified who we thought was the trigger man and shot him. In another HMMWV, one of my SGTs got out and shot at someone else. After the handful of shots, we all dismounted and were working on recovering the vehicle that was hit by the IED. We were light on people as we were only escorting my CO and 1SG to a meeting so my 1SG, medic, a SAW gunner, and myself scoured the area to find the people that we shot. We found the "triggerman" still alive, but bleeding to death and just roling on the ground. I left my medic there with him my SAW gunner to begin first aid. I saw a group of 2x 20ish males and a 6 year old boy sitting on a log solemnly about 50 feet away. As I approached, I saw an 8 year old boy lying face down on the dirt. He was still alive, but not doing so good. The two guys were his uncle and the younger boy was his little brother. They were on their way to a wedding and the boy was even carying his little tuxedo all wrapped up in plastic to keep it clean. I did all I could, but I could have done a lot of things differently and offered more compassion in that situation. I don't know if the kid actually died or not, but we did get him on a helicopter extremely fast. He wasn't doing good at all. I still get flashes of the incident when I look at my two little girls and I think about how much I love them and I realize how devastated I'd be if something happened to them like what happened to the kid I found.

I can tell you that I didn't feel any sense of patriotism watching people die, picking up their parts, and stuffing them into body bags. I definintely dign't feel proud for my service or what I did by any measure. I hated the awards and decorations I received for my combat experience as it feels like it cheapens the whole thing. My parents and family are proud of me and my service, but I'm not. They weren't there and they have no idea what it is all about. It's easy to tell stories like this in a semi-anonymous fashion, but I'm scared shitless of telling my family things like this. The scary truth is, after a while, you kind of get turned on to violence. I find myself missing combat, holding a rifle, the danger, and everything else. If I could somehow go back to Iraq and to the war, I'd drop everything in a heart beat to get back. I wouldn't call myself suicidal, but I can totally understand veterans and their suicide dilemna as I've been through it myself. Comming back to the civilian world sucks and is impossible for some of us. I've been out of the war for about 8 years and I still find it is a central facet of my life. I just can't get away from it.

I can keep going on and on, but I kind of lost what my original message was supposed to be. I believe this is still worth posting, whatever the final message is. Anyways, thanks to anyone who is reading this and for listening to the ramblings of a veteran.

(As an aside, I'm currently receiving treatment for PTSD from the VA).

I wouldn't go that far

I know what you are trying to say, but that isn't exactly true. Yes, there probably aren't a lot of wealthy people serving but I'm pretty sure that there is a very healthy portion of the military that comes from the middle class.

As a former officer, I'd be willing to assert that almost all of the officer corps is solidly middle class in origins. As far as enlisted ranks goes, you probably have a higher portion of lower income people.

I loved the part in Michael Moore's movie "Farenheit 911" where he discusses the number of congress members who have a son serving in the military. I think in 2004, there was one member of congress who had a son who was serving in the military. It's easy to send people to war when you most likely never will have to know anyone who will have to directly deal with it.

Personally, I love the VA

However, your note is funny.

It's kind of like where I work. Everyone hates working for my organization and constantly complains about how bad of a place it is to work in a recent employee survey. But the funny thing is nobody leaves. Something like 2% of the employees who work here have been here for a year or less and turnover is almost non existant. If it sucks so much, why have you been working here for 20 years? Is it because nowhere else can you make the money you make here, have a low-stress job, and have the closest thing anyone has to absolute job security anymore?

The same with the VA.

Personally, I have nothing but good things to say about the VA. It is a big organization and it is easy to get lost in the system, but that happens with any excessively large organization. I fully believe that the care providers are sincere and really want the best for veterans like me. I show up a complete mental wreck (I have a lot of pretty severe PTSD issues) and they help me with every aspect of my life. I have relationship problems, a social worker helps me out with that. I lost my job, another person helps me find work and helps me write a resume. I'm going crazy bouncing off the walls and someone else will just sit and listen to me rant. When I'm having good days and I bring my kids by, everyone stops and to talk or play with them. The VA is full of good people and has provided me nothing but awesome care. They have done so much for my life.

I lived in Germany for a number of years where they have socialized medicine and I never heard anyone say anything negative about it. I know there is a lot of propaganda out there from the health insurance industry, but I don't how people can't see the numbers and realize that our healthcare system is crap. We pay more per capita on healthcare than anyone else in the world and have a lower life expectancy than most other industrialized nations. I just don't get it. Our for profit healthcare system obviously isn't working as well as it should.

Another thing that I find funny is look at how, relatively speaking, successful and strong the German economy has been in the last several years. They have things like socialized medicine, environmental controls, and fair labor practices - all things that conservatives claim kill the economy. They currently have an unemployment rate of 6.8% (if I recall correctly) and are the second most exporting country in the world after China.

agreed

I agree with everything you say and I don't believe that posing with dead people like they are dear is at all acceptable.

However, to be judged by a group of people who have no idea what war is like and what happens to a person's mind when they are directly involved is not fair to our Soldiers.

As Soldiers, we are/were expected to fight a war and kill when necessary. Everyon grows up with what I would say is a natural aversion to killing people. Once you find yourself in a situation when you've killed a person, it really throws everything into a "tizzie". I shot and killed people and was rewarded for it! What kind of mixed signal does that throw to a person? When it is alright to kill someone, posing with them like a deer or urinating on them becomes easy to do.

I completely understand where they are coming from.

You don't shoot and kill people that you like. A lot of the conditioning (both intentional and unintentional) makes you not want to like the people that you are fighting against. The second that you revere your enemy as a person like you, you'll find it hard to deal with combat - which is exactly what happened to me.

War sucks and coming home and trying to be normal afterwards is almost impossible for some of us, but that is the topic for another thread. These are just more reasons why war should be avoided at all costs.

I'm not so sure about that...

I might be wrong, but I don't think it was directly lowered by good ol' W. but by the pentagon guys who worked under him. Well, by virtue of position and being in charge of it all, that would make him responsible. I won't argue with that.

Geeze. I think this is the closest thing to sticking up for Jorge W. I've ever done. I probably shouldn't even post that comment, but then this sentence wouldn't make any sense!

-----

However, as a former military guy, I will say that the above statement about ignorant rednecks isn't always exactly the case. Yes, they are out there and I'm sure a certain minority of people do join so that they can commit state sanctioned murder. However, all officers have to have at least a 4 year degree and, hence, are somewhat educated and do lean a little more towards the middle/left than you might expect.

Most of the guys in the military have a heart of gold and joined because they thought they were doing a good thing. Most people (Soldiers) want to do the right thing and want to help their fellow man. Guys like me joined before September 11th because I saw what our Army was doing in Bosnia/Kosovo and I believed the Army was an instrument of good. I never immagined wars like the one I was a part of in Iraq could happen.

Having served in the Army, I have nothing bad to say about the organization itself. However, the way it has been used by our politicians and the people at the top is certainly less than admirable. The war absolutely sucked. But, if you're like me, and you can't stand killing and watching your buddies die, you better get the hell out. War is what the Army is all about.

Unfortunatley, the Army focuses on combat and "winning" military engagements. At all levels of training, combat and "violence of execution" are emphasized. Not things like nation building and respecting civilians. The biggest failure, in my opinion, on the ground in Iraq is the overemphasis of force protection over mission accomplishment and relationship building with the locals. If I was engaged or felt threatened, we shot who we thought was a threat (look at the countless stories of cars of non-combatants being fired on at impromtu traffic checkpoints).

Anyways, I'm rambling now and this has nothing to do with the original topic. I know I'm kind of biased with my thoughts and I have a hard time hearing anything negative about the Army. I can feel myself getting teary-eyed even thinking about it and I do usually over react and zero in on Army/war related threads. Just realize that I'm kind of "crazy" side of the fence and I'm probably over reacting. It just bothers me to hear an association with ignorant rednecks.

At the end of the day, I believe that we are on the same side here.
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