June 06, 2012
And we do it because I need to do it. It's been too long since I've felt the sting of war, and my complacency is too comfortable.
June 10, 2011
May 30, 2011
April 06, 2010
My husband is in DC for the funeral service for the soldier in his company who was killed on deployment.
We had an FRG meeting last week, and the unit provided details for the families who would be heading to Arlington for the service. As I sat there holding my new baby, the baby who looks just like my husband, all I could think about was this soldier's wife. His pregnant wife. Pregnant with a little girl...
When I thought I'd go into labor before my husband came home, I had a meltdown. I couldn't make myself go to the hospital. I was packing my suitcase while weeping, in agony that things had not gone as I'd wanted them to go, that it wasn't supposed to be this way, that he was supposed to be here with me and for me. I wanted to stay in complete denial and refuse to go to the hospital. I felt deep in my bones that I just couldn't have that baby without him, that despite how capable I am, this was the one thing I couldn't handle on my own.
And I think of this woman whose husband won't be there at all when her baby is born, and I can't stand it. I am sick for her. Just sick.
I'm so thankful for my husband and child.
December 26, 2009
December 04, 2009
But I can't help but keep thinking about firebombing Dresden vs vaccinating goats. It's such a different tactic. And I fear that we're starting to mistake the hearts-and-minds missions as being the end, not the means.
I wrote earlier this year about my husband's career field:
It's a fascinating way to look at his job, and sadly it takes a confident person to accept that role. Civil Affairs as a branch doesn't want to see itself as just a tool for Special Forces. Some in the branch look askance at my husband when his briefings show the Civil Affairs work as Phase 2 and what SF built out of their work as Phase 3. They want to feel like their role is important. It certainly is, but only if it helps get us closer to the bad guy.
Happy, healthy goats in Afghanistan shouldn't be our goal; winning should.
The reason we are in this war is to stop terrorists from killing Americans. The point is to prevent another 9/11, to cut off the funding for and state-sponsorship of terrorism, and to kill as many al Qaeda and terrorists as possible. We vaccinate the goats because hopefully that will help nice Afghans and Iraqis point out where the bad guys are, or take up arms and help us fight them. We don’t vaccinate the goats because we want to do charity work for them.
But that’s not the military goal. We have to remember that that is a means to an end: a better educated and more economically sound populace should lead to less people joining al Qaeda out of desperation, or becoming a suicide bomber for the money. I want Iraqis and Afghans to flourish, but I have an ulterior motive for that desire. I am not just blindly altruistic in my support for these missions and programs. They have to advance the cause of the US military, otherwise they're missing the point.
So when I read this interview with author Greg Mortenson this morning, I got my feathers all ruffled:
And I see that right there as an epic FAIL.
My husband is not there to "serve" the people of Afghanistan. He is there to creatively find ways to do compassionate missions, with the end goal always tucked away in the back of his mind that it only makes sense to run the mission if it will somehow benefit the American military agenda. If he wanted to build schools for needy people, he could've just joined Habitat For Humanity.
The Mortenson advice is all well and good if you are an NGO or just an kindhearted fella who wants to open schools in Afghanistan. His goal is to help those people; he "serves" them. The military doesn't; the military serves the interests of the United States. The American military is not one big money tree that Afghans can keep coming to to get "served." Or at least it shouldn't be. But every soldier working in Iraq and Afghanistan has a horror story of following Mortenson's Rule #1 and asking the local people what they need...and then getting an earful of upgrades. "We need power restored to the entire remote village." Well, have you ever had power before? Did you have power back when Saddam ran the country? No? Then how, pray tell, do you expect us to "restore" it? My husband visited a school last year and asked them what they could use; they gave him plans for a state-of-the-art kitchen they wanted installed in the cafeteria. Scale it back a bit, folks; Uncle Sugar isn't going to turn your hot plate into Paula Deen's kitchen. Especially not if it's not going to get us anything in return. I want to be assured of quid pro quo before we vaccinate anybody's goats, or at least have a pretty good idea that we'll get something for our effort.
The US military is not one big charity organization trying to fix Afghanistan. Let the Gates Foundation do stuff like that. Our missions need to have purpose and need to be grounded in some sense of how this helps the overall goals of our fighting force: If I vaccinate this goat or build this school, will ol' Farzad in the village let us know is he hears rumors of the next planned attack? If not, then Farzad can find his own damn vaccination.
We are not there to "serve" him.
Related thoughts from Ralph Peters on TV. Clip here. Relevant quote:
December 03, 2009
I have a friend in my knitting group whose husband died as a contractor in Iraq. She has never been forthcoming with details, and I certainly have never wanted to pry. But last week she let me know that an episode of Battlefield Diaries would be on the Military Channel, and that it was the attack her husband was killed in.
I had no idea he was killed in the convoy where Matt Maupin was captured. Nor did I have any idea that I knew the lieutenant who led that convoy; Matt Brown and I were in youth group together in high school.
I am just stunned by the coincidence right now.
December 01, 2009
What I answered was that it depends on what the 30,000 will be used for. Will they be sent to urban or rural areas? Will they be doing counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism? And as far as an exit goes, I said it depends on whether Pres Obama announces what the end game is. Will he state concrete goals? Will he announce a victory strategy? It makes no sense to denote an arbitrary end to a war based on running out the clock; what does victory look like to the Obama administration?
And I obviously over-thought the substance of the article, because I was apparently over-expectant on the substance of the speech.
I wanted details. I can't form any opinions on whether we're making the right move if I don't know the specifics. And I feel like I didn't learn anything new from listening to Pres Obama's speech tonight than what I already knew from what got leaked ahead of time. (Except I learned there is something called a "tool of mass destruction." Which sounds more like a witty insult than something serious.)
What I wanted was Perot or Beck-style charts and graphs. I wanted another version of FDR's fireside chat On the Progess of the War.
Look at your map.
Heavy bombers can fly under their own power from here to the southwest Pacific, either way, but the smaller planes cannot. Therefore, these lighter planes have to be packed in crates and sent on board cargo ships. Look at your map again; and you will see that the route is long – and at many places perilous – either across the South Atlantic all the way (a)round South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, or from California to the East Indies direct. A vessel can make a round trip by either route in about four months, or only three round trips in a whole year.
In spite of the length, (and) in spite of the difficulties of this transportation, I can tell you that in two and a half months we already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned by American pilots and crews, which are now in daily contact with the enemy in the Southwest Pacific. And thousands of American troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the air but on the ground as well.
In this battle area, Japan has had an obvious initial advantage. For she could fly even her short-range planes to the points of attack by using many stepping stones open to – her bases in a multitude of Pacific islands and also bases on the China coast, Indo-China coast, and in Thailand and Malaya (coasts). Japanese troop transports could go south from Japan and from China through the narrow China Sea, which can be protected by Japanese planes throughout its whole length.
I ask you to look at your maps again, particularly at that portion of the Pacific Ocean lying west of Hawaii. Before this war even started, the Philippine Islands were already surrounded on three sides by Japanese power. On the west, the China side, the Japanese were in possession of the coast of China and the coast of Indo-China which had been yielded to them by the Vichy French. On the North are the islands of Japan themselves, reaching down almost to northern Luzon. On the east, are the Mandated Islands – which Japan had occupied exclusively, and had fortified in absolute violation of her written word.
Read that and imagine any recent president talking to us citizens this way. Imagine being treated like you have a brain in your head, and that you're a part of what's taking place. Imagine your president asking you to follow his complex speech on a map or with pen and paper.
Instead, we got "We will not target other people...because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours." And praise for teachers, community organizers, and "Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad."
That's all well and good, but I wanted details about Afghanistan.
I don't know why I expected I would get that.
Bad writing. Lame delivery. Tepid response — from cadets ORDERED to be nice. And a strategic vision equal parts High School Essay Content and low-rent public relations.
November 22, 2009
Wow, Army. I didn't think it was possible for you to look worse in this fiasco, but you've gone and outdone yourself. I think that's the most appalling thing I've ever heard.
No wonder soldiers hesitate to get treated for PTSD, if that's the attitude of the commanding officer of psychiatry services for the military.
November 12, 2009
I also talked briefly on the phone to a veteran: my husband's brother. He's out of the Army now but he was deployed to Iraq in 2004 at the same time my husband was.
And I will eat dinner with another veteran tonight. Time spent with Chuck Z is always appreciated.
I did not get to hear from my favorite veteran of all yesterday...but hopefully soon.
November 07, 2009
From an online interview with a former JAG officer:
[Question from] Rockville, Md.: Dear Mr. Kenniff, As the wife of a former military officer, it strikes me as odd that the shooter, who was a major in the Army, claimed that he was being harassed for his religious beliefs. While some types of harassment and teasing (which could be serious or not) are surely not uncommon among enlisted men and women, it is harder to envision it happening in the officer ranks. Enlisted soldiers would know not to harass an officer and it is difficult to envision this individual being "made fun of" (the term I saw in the newspaper) by other officers. This seems inconsistent with the norms in that professional context. What is your sense of this claim? Thanks.
My experience with this is limited, but it runs counter to these two people's experiences. I think perhaps it might have to do with the fact that JAG and the medical corps are a little different from, say, combat arms. I imagine there's less foul-mouthed insults being hurled in the hospital than there are in my husband's corridor.
Yes, I very seriously doubt that some PFC walked up to MAJ Hasan in the hospital and started ragging on him for being a Muslim. Not likely. But to say that officers are above teasing and making fun of folks? My husband apparently doesn't live on the same planet as this lady's husband did.
Officers are human beings. Human beings, in an in-group setting, tease each other. Especially males. About anything and everything that can be used for fodder. Off the top of my head, I know my husband has been made fun of for a variety of things: his beard, his car, his larger-than-average head, his use of big vocabulary words, his lack of tattoos, his never-heard-of-it alma mater, and yes, even just the mere fact of being an officer is grounds for teasing at times (because officers go home and roll around in their big money piles like Scrooge McDuck, you know). And in his current career field, where no one uses rank and everyone gets called by first names, the enlisted soldiers get plenty of cracks in at him. No one is exempt, not the First Sergeant, not the commander, no one. (And Lord help you if you are a female in this career field. You have to have very thick skin.)
I've seen officers tease on ethnicity. A few years ago, my husband invited some other lieutenants over to the house and then told a Chinese-American lieutenant, "But you can't come, you'll oppress my Tibetan dog." The guy laughed and thought that was pretty clever, saying that he usually just gets accused of wanting to eat people's dogs.
I really doubt that Hasan was directly teased about being a Muslim. He might've been if he had gotten close enough to other guys in his unit where they felt comfortable ribbing him, but my guess is that enough people felt Hasan was a bit off and didn't think it'd be wise to poke fun at him. My husband served with one such Muslim before, and everyone was careful to give this guy some space.
I think what's more likely is that Hasan heard indirect comments against Muslims in general and took it personally. In treating soldiers' mental states, he might've heard them say generic things about how they don't get Islam, or they don't like haji, or whatever. And Hasan took it personally. I would bet that a closeted homosexual deals with the same thing in the military. Same as a non-vocal atheist. They would be surrounded by casual conversation against their lifestyle, and I'm sure that's not easy to swallow over and over. I am guessing that's what Hasan meant by saying he felt harassed or made fun of. He heard anti-Muslim comments just by being in the military and took them to heart. Understandable, but quite different from being openly mocked for being a Muslim himself.
I think all this shock that an officer killed these people is a bit ridiculous. Officers are people too. Some of them are jerks. Some of them are ignorant or immature. Some of them are malicious and messed up in the head. They're not somehow above murder just because of their rank.
And they're not above joking and teasing either.
Come on, you really think Chuck Z conducts himself at all times like a complete gentleman? I bet he can let an off-color insult rip like no one's business...
November 06, 2009
Read about the origins of Valour-IT, as written by Chuck Z's wife.
Pick a service branch and donate towards their team.
Enjoy the inter-service demotivators!
My favorite of all time applies to all branches:
November 05, 2009
It makes me sick.
I have long been confused by the irony that military installations are gun-free zones. Every person in that readiness center could've shot back. Every soldier is trained, and I'd bet many of their wives are decent marksmen too. And yet Hasan was the only one with a gun.
Guns. And time to reload.
And a mental health specialist. Unfathomable.
It sounds like he's still alive. Good. He doesn't deserve to die before facing the horror he inflicted. Try him, and then fry him.
And I hope it hurts his feelings that he was shot by a girl.
Related thoughts at The Corner.
October 29, 2009
I am frustrated on so many levels.
Am I missing something here? I thought we needed this new strategy because only it would deny safe haven to al-Qaeda. Now, we are evidently going to do counterinsurgency despite conceding at the outset that it won't really work because the Taliban is "an indigenous force" (translation: It has too much support among its fellow Afghan Muslims); under "Biden for the country," we are going to cede the vast countryside to the Taliban, which will then be free to give al-Qaeda the safe-haven it was purportedly our objective to prevent (and you know that's what we're doing because a "senior administration official" felt it necessary to tell the Times, "We are not talking about surrendering the rest of the country to the Taliban"); and under McChrystal for the city, while we don't go after the Taliban because “we are no longer thinking about just destroying the enemy in a conventional way,” we're going to focus on solving the real challenge to U.S. national security . . . Afghan corruption.
And I still feel like Ralph Peters:
And yet leaving is an even bigger problem.
I get sick thinking about it.
October 20, 2009
My mind is also apparently starting to play tricks on me.
I am ready to be done now, pls k thx.
Also, he is being a total John Adams and hasn't sent me one single letter. "But we don't have outgoing mail out here" blah blah blah, like I believe that.
I'm tired of being in stores and seeing something I could give him for Christmas, and then putting it back because I realize that he won't be here for Christmas...
I'm tired of seeing myself in the mirror at night before bed and noticing how absolutely remarkable and amazing I look with my big, bare belly, and knowing he will never get to see it. I am not trying to be lewd, but I think the hardest thing about the pregnancy so far is that my husband doesn't get to see what I look like with no clothes on. The changes are pretty phenomenal, and I don't have anyone to share it with.
I just miss him.
I know, I know, "gold to aery thinness beat" and all, like I always say. But I'm feeling dull and sublunary today.
October 13, 2009
September 22, 2009
Afghanistan bothers me, still.
But now with discussions of whether Obama will send additional troops, I have been forced to think about it a little. But reading and thinking about it just ruffles me more. Like this:
Sigh. I sigh about Afghanistan a lot.
McCarthy backs up Will:
Fred Barnes said last night that it's telling that McChrystal, who is at heart a counter-terrorism guy, is requesting additional troops for counter-insurgency. I hope he knows what he's doing. I hope he gets it right.
I know he knows more than I do.
I just know I hate thinking about Afghanistan.
[hat tip to Amritas for both links]
September 16, 2009
August 02, 2009
On my end, I am entirely too preoccupied with worrying about our baby's death and feeling morning sick all day long to miss my husband very much. I just haven't dwelled on it. I am too busy trying to find foods I can actually eat to sit around and miss him too much.
On his end, he is bored. The team hasn't started missions yet, they might change locations, and he has made a big proposal to completely change the type of missions his team would be used for, so the bigwigs are mulling that over. So they have no job yet, just playing X-box all day. Because he doesn't have internet access. Apparently super-secret FOBs are much tighter on communication. He has no access to my blog, no ability to IM or skype, and he can only email sporadically if he waits in a long line.
Figures, the one deployment where both of us look interesting -- him growing that absurd beard and me growing a belly -- and we'll never get to webcam.
So he'll probably never get to see this post, but still...
Happy Birthday, husband.
I'm saving your present to give to you when you get home. (Hint: it's a baby.)
July 21, 2009
I just thought I'd recap some of my experiences, which aren't that far off from what Crowder went through in Canada. A "greatest hits," if you will, of the past two years of my life.
I've already done my listing of terrible bedside manner I've encountered over the years, but let's see if we can dig up some more gems.
I wish my husband wasn't unreachable in Afghanistan, because he has some good stories too. I seem to remember him needing a physical a while back and thinking he had a 7 AM appointment. It turns out that 7 AM was just the cattle call: every soldier who needed a physical that day turned up at 7 AM to sit and wait his turn. I remember him saying there was a sign in the room that said something to the effect of "Have a seat; this WILL take all day." Heh.
Sean Hannity expressed surprise that Crowder had to take a number like it was a butcher shop or something. We take a number so often in the military life that I didn't even bat an eye at that. In fact, I take a number every week when I go in to get my bloodwork done.
In my experience, I have had trouble getting actual human beings to answer my questions and give me the help I need. Last year when I had Miscarriage #2:
My mother was freaking out. "This is how things work for you? You haven't talked to a human being all day long, just answering machines!" But for me, this was totally normal. I never talk to human beings when I call the hospital. I don't even know how to call a human being, save the advice nurse. In fact, that's why I called her in the afternoon, just because she's the only human being I know how to reach! My mom was shocked that someone, anyone!, didn't call me during the day to let me know what was going on.
My husband called from Iraq at 5:15 PM to see how things were going. Five minutes later, the doctor beeped in. I had to hang up with my husband from Iraq to talk to the doctor! If that doesn't suck, I don't know what does.
Sometimes I've had trouble getting an actual human being to remember I'm being cared for. During Miscarriage #1, they wheeled my hospital bed back to the ultrasound room, and when they were done, they left me in the hallway and said somebody would take me back to the ER. Well, somebody forgot. They left me lying there alone in a hallway after just telling me my baby was dead for an hour. I begged anyone who walked by me to call someone to come get me, but still no one came.
Waiting...yep, I'm familiar with it.
A few months ago I went to the weekend clinic because I thought I might have strep throat. I had an appointment but still had to wait an hour past my appointment time to be seen. He looked at my throat, said he would test for strep, and sent me home. I was to call in 48 hours for the results, and if it was strep, they would then give me antibiotics. I called two days later and got an answering machine that said to leave a message and someone would call me back with my results within 48 hours. Two more days later, they called and said I didn't have strep. By that time, my symptoms had pretty much gone away, but thank heavens I didn't have strep, because then I would've had to go back in to get the meds. Four days to let me know if I had strep. The reason I went in on the weekend is because I deal with children in my job and didn't want to pass strep to them.
And we have the Canadian-style waiting that Crowder experienced. I had to go to the ER on a Friday night back in January:
I expected to be there until midnight. I didn't expect to be there until 4:30 AM. During that time, I had less than ten minutes of actual medical care -- take blood pressure, ask about my symptoms, quick pelvic exam -- and was eventually told...drumroll..."Geez, I don't know anything about fertility stuff, so just call your doctor Monday morning."
In the meantime, while we were sitting around all night, I also wrote about the family next to us:
The gist is that the daughter had a chronic problem that had been happening for months. The parents were separated and the mother was "too lazy" to make the kid an appointment. The dad said that he works here in the hospital and had asked colleagues about his daughter's problem, but since it persisted, they wanted to have it checked out.
On a Friday night. In the ER.
There was no emergency, no sudden change in her condition that made them feel that treatment was necessary, nothing like that. This dad just brought his three kids in to spend the night in the ER. My husband and I were there for eight hours, until 5 AM, and this family had arrived before us and was still there when we left.
That is not an emergency.
This family was clogging up the ER and making me and, more importantly, other people with more pressing problems wait longer. They were sapping resources. If you work in the hospital, can't you find the time to make an appointment for your daughter? Why are you taking care of a child's chronic health problem in the middle of the night on a Friday?
Because you don't have to pay anything either way, that's why.
Why make a regular doctor's appointment during the week, and have to ask for time off work and take the kid out of school, when you could just bring everyone to camp out in the ER all night. There is no cost difference, so it's just easier to do it off hours.
No wonder it took me so long to be seen. And I feel even worse for the guy with the gall stones; he really would've liked to have been treated faster.
I am sure that this family isn't the only one of its kind. They bog down the system for all of us. A problem that's been going on for three months is not something that requires ER care on a weekend. Make a normal appointment and free up that ER doctor for someone who really needs him.
And that, I think, is the crux of the problem. We don't pay for any of our care, so for most people, it's easier to take care of things on nights and weekends than it is to do it during the week. What's the difference, we don't pay either way. And I'm guilty of abusing the system as well: if I had had to pay $100 to go in and find out if I had strep or not, I probably wouldn't have. I would've taken a cough drop and dealt with it. But I used resources because they were free.
Or at least, free to me. Somebody paid.
After Miscarriage #2, the doctor was telling me my options. These words actually came out of his mouth: "Well, we could do another D&C surgery, but that costs the taxpayers an awful lot of money, so maybe you could consider miscarrying naturally?"
Don't let anyone tell you that medical decisions won't be made based on cost once the government is in charge. I have already experienced it firsthand in the military system.
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