June 25, 2007

NOT HAPPY

So far I have been a fan of the Army Wives TV show. I think they do a decent job of portraying what our lives are like. But last night's episode didn't sit well with me at all.

In a nutshell, there was a situation where a sergeant took the lieutenant colonel's husband hostage because he was mad about events that happened in Afghanistan. It wasn't the hostage situation that I thought was bad; it was the events in Afghanistan.

According to this story, a "patrol" (no idea how many soldiers) was ambushed and was heavily outnumbered. This guy, the hostage taker, was wounded by shrapnel, so they left him in the Afghan village to be taken care of by the locals and went back to the FOB for reenforcements. But "because of the heat", they couldn't get back to rescue him for days, so the Afghan family took care of him. Once he was rescued, he vowed to come back and help the family. So this sergeant, his lieutenant colonel, and three other soldiers went back to the village to take medical supplies and food, only to find that 12 "heavily-armed" insurgents were burning down the house and raping the 10-year-old daughter in the middle of the street. Because they were outnumbered 12 to 5, and because "the Rules of Engagement are clear: do not interfere with civilian affairs", the lieutenant colonel told them to maintain their positions and stay hidden while they watched a child get raped and murdered.

OK, where to begin. I know I am not a soldier, and I know neither I nor my husband can possibly know all of the strange circumstances that arise in battle. But I cannot imagine any situation of any kind where a unit would leave a wounded soldier behind in an Afghan household. Period. And not for days on end because of the heat! It also seems ridiculous that a lieutenant colonel would roll around Kandahar with a four-man team. My husband's LTC had an entire platoon of entourage at all times, at least 20 men. It seems a bit of a stretch to me that anyone besides Special Forces types are going anywhere in our war zones with only five people! I just don't think that's realistic. So they would've never been outnumbered if they'd taken a proper number of soldiers on this mission.

Finally, the Rules of Engagement thing is not exactly the way my husband describes it. He quoted me a common rule of thumb: a unit might be authorized to use deadly force in circumstances where there is loss of "life, limb, or eyesight." He thinks the rape of a 10 year old in broad daylight would be grounds for a fight, especially if this child belongs to a family who is a known supporter of the American military operation. Again we go back to them being outnumbered 12 to 5, which I don't see ever happening, but my husband did say that in times when you might be extremely outnumbered, there might be cause to not intervene. But this whole "do not interfere with civilian affairs" thing was junk to him because, as he quipped, all al Qaeda types are civilians, so not intervening in civilian matters would apply to everything!

Yeah, yeah, Sarah, all this is just details. But this is the stuff that matters, in my opinion. Most of the people who don't like Army Wives are saying they don't like it because officers don't hang out with enlisted, because you wouldn't get a citation for not mowing on your first day in housing, because a female officer wouldn't be dancing drunk in a jody bar. They think all that stuff gives us a bad impression to civilian viewers.

What about the civilian viewers who now think that American soldiers will sit back and watch a 10 year old get raped and murdered? That our Rules of Engagement won't let us step in and prevent insurgents from killing an innocent family and burning their home? That we are married to men who sit by and do nothing while vile insurgents ruin people's lives? That's a far more dangerous picture to paint for civilians than whether we have all-rank tea parties.

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June 18, 2007

MILITARY READS

After the Milblogs Conference, CaliValleyGirl wrote:

Since my boyfriend/fiancé has returned, I have distanced myself from the Milblogging community. Not really on purpose, but just because once my soldier returned I wanted to celebrate his being home, act like we were a “normal” couple, doing normal couple things
...
When he was deployed I knew everything that was going on, the names of operations, the areas of operations, how things were going in these areas. I would check the names of fallen soldiers and read about their lives. I read milblogs religiously. I sought out new connections, searching for degrees of separation. I lived and breathed the war on terror. And I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that other people didn’t share my fervor in following all things combat related.

I often complain that war is too distant from the general public. Because of the deployments, soldiers clock-in and then clock-out of the war. They aren’t in war mode the whole time. And consequently their families aren’t in war mode. I complain about the general public lacking the passion to fight this war, but I realize that I am just as much part of that problem. As soon as my boyfriend came back, I clocked-out.

Over the weekend, I realized that if you aren’t a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. I had subconsciously become one of those people who lives as if we aren’t at war. And part of me thought that in 2 ½ years things might be over in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my fiancé won’t be deploying again. That this war doesn’t really directly affect me anymore. Over the weekend I realized that I hope my fiancé deploys again in 2 ½ years. Because if he doesn’t deploy, it means that we have given up.

I can completely understand her feelings here. And I applaud her for expressing them so honestly; when I tried to bring this up once on SpouseBUZZ, it didn't work out so well.

I still spend roughly the same time online as I did when my husband was deployed, but the hunger for frontline stories isn't as deep as it was when he was gone. Back then I needed to feel connected to Iraq in a different way than I do now. And while I am just as emotionally invested in the outcome of the war, I know that I too am half-clocked out. Or at least enjoying the idea that I have the luxury of being half-clocked out until next year.

But I am trying to reconnect with what I've let go since March 2005. So I offer some military reads today.

Read this day in the life of Greyhawk.
Read this old Matt Sanchez story if you missed it.
And read this encounter with a suicide bomber from Tadpole.

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June 16, 2007

RECOVERING

Just...dang.

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June 14, 2007

LOVE THAT PERSPECTIVE

Happy Birthday, Army!

Last night we watched the movie The Great Raid. As a wife, I find watching movies like that extremely sobering, for there's no way to feel sorry about 15 month OIF deployments once you've imagined your husband a Bataan Death March POW. There's nothin' like a healthy dose of Perspective.

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June 11, 2007

THE REAL WORLD

The other day ArmyWifeToddlerMom let down her hair and griped about the media. She mentioned that Ben Affleck was on the TV and the news station labeled him "political activist", to which I commented

What I find delicious is when actors like Ben Affleck -- people who, at worst, dropped out of high school or, at best, attended a few college classes -- act like they know so much more than the stupid, downtrodden, brainwashed soldiers -- people who, at worst, dropped out of high school but got a GED or, more often than not, attended a few college classes. Why exactly is Ben Affleck's opinion on foreign affairs considered more valuable than an Army specialist's? They have nearly the same schooling, but the specialist has actually done more in the real world...

This morning I found a post from one such specialist, working in the real world. He's seen more in his Fifteen Months and Counting than Ben Affleck has in his whole life.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:28 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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June 05, 2007

WE REMEMBER

dday002.jpg

At the edge of the cliffs, the wind is a smack, and D-day becomes wildly clear:
climbing that cutting edge into the bullets.
-- John Vinocur

dday003.jpg


photos taken by Sarah
Normandy, France 1999

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ALWAYS SATISFIED

Our old neighbor was an Army dentist, and I asked him once if there was any difference in having soldiers for patients. He said he loved having soldier patients, because they never argue or complain. He said most of the time they fall asleep in the chair and he can do all his dental work without issue.

I love that soldiers can sleep anywhere, eat anything, and be happy doing whatever it takes. My husband can sit in the hottest, loudest, most cramped airplane seat and be fine, because it's still more comfortable than a tank.

I love soldiers more than anything, which is why I got such a kick out of Lemon Stand's post about soldiers eating in an Air Force chow hall.

I can totally imagine their faces. I love it.

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June 04, 2007

GETTING OUT

I just found a great post from a Marine's girlfriend over at Loquita's Blog. At this point, he is talking about getting out because he doesn't want to put her through a deployment. This bothers her.

I don't want LT to make a decision about staying in the Marine Corps based on not wanting to put me through the lack of work-life balance inherent in the military lifestyle - intense training schedules, never-ending and always inconvenient or last-minute (or both) changes to those schedules, and of course deployments.
...
Maybe I've just become too invested in my mil-spouse persona, and I don't want to give up the feeling of having a shared bond with others... And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I'd go so far as to say I don't want to give up on this new kind of clique that I'm eligible to be a member of.

And who would LT be if he wasn't a Marine? How will my view of him change, and what will our life be like post-USMC? I don't even know for sure what career or profession he would end up in. He talks about becoming a firefighter or a police officer. But how would he or I know if those jobs are any more conducive to maintaining a good work-life balance? At this point, I've adjusted to the military thing, I've found support through reading blogs online, and I'm not anxious to go through any more big changes...

I can completely relate to this feeling. When my husband applied for Civil Affairs the first time and didn't get in, he decided he would get out of the Army. And I cried. Oh how I cried. And tried to pretend I wasn't crying, because it's his job and his choice to make, and I didn't want him to stay in just so his wife would stop crying.

Often we hear about wives who urge their husbands to get out of the military. But it's something entirely different to urge your husband to stay in. You can emotionally blackmail someone to stop doing what he loves, but how do you make him keep doing something you want him to do...without the blackmail?

I was so scared, lying there in the dark that night, talking about getting out. What would we do? Where would we go? All we've ever known together has been the Army, and I was terrified about getting out. Terrified about finding another job, devastated about letting go of retiring at 42, and scared to death that he'd get another job only to find he hated the civilian world even more than he hated Army Finance.

But how could I make him stay? I wasn't the one doing an unsatisfying job. I wasn't the one who felt betrayed by the Army because I'd offered to make myself more useful only to have them brush me off. I wasn't the one who ultimately had to choose.

Luckily, he wasn't at the point where he could get out quickly. Luckily he still owed the Army another three years after that fateful night, and he managed to find his way into Civil Affairs a year later. And he's happy again.

But could I have really let him get out? I don't really like to think about that. If the situation came up again, we'd discuss again.

And I'd cry. Oh how I'd cry.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:57 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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