For some reason I found myself watching a Barrett-Jackson Car Auction Saturday night from Palm Beach, Florida.
I was glued to the screen for a couple of hours – drooling over one car after the other. Even though I have always admired muscle cars, I have never wanted one at any point in my life. My brother had a ’57 Chevy and wow, what a car. There were other cars I loved as well – the ’58 Chevy Impala, the ’56 Ford Crown Victoria and the ’57 Pontiac Chieftan.
One car in the show last night was a Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang painted in an American Flag that had hundreds if not thousands of signatures of those who lost friends or relatives in the Afghan and Iraq wars. The car had previously been auctioned off twice, with almost $950,000 going to the Wounded Warrior project.
What the auction did last night was to return me to the late 50’s and early 60’s when I did not have a car of my own and as a result, for me to go out on a “real” date, it required double dating and sitting in the backseat – which was not a bad thing, mind you. The only other alternative for me was to use city busses on dates and even though the bus service in Springfield, Massachusetts back then was great, dating was no fun on public transportation.
I remember double dating in two cars specifically – one was a Metropolitan that was about the size of an average bathtub. What was interesting was that the owner of the car, John Alden, was 6’4” and I was 6’2” and John was equally cramped as the driver in the front seat with his date as I was in the back seat with my date. It did not seem like it even had a backseat – it seemed more like that two foot space that is behind a couch in the living room and having two pillows to sit on.
The other car, if memory serves me well, was a ’56 Ford Victoria – what a great car that was. It was great for double dating as well – Bob, the car’s owner, and Toni in the front seat and Kathy and I in the back seat – with enough room to not feel claustrophobic.
I always thought Bob’s car was a Crown Vic but I just got off the phone with him, after 50 years of not catching up with him, and he told me it was a ’56 Ford Victoria – minus the Crown. It was nice chatting with him after all these years.
Good memories – no, actually they were wonderful memories – until I decided to go into the Air Force. I was a year ahead of Kathy and as a result, when I decided to go into the Air Force in 1962, Kathy’s step-father forced an end to our relationship because he did not want Kathy dating someone in the military. I was not sure why he took that strong position, but I respected his decision and off to Lackland AFB, Texas I went and I did not look back.
There was a draft back in 1962 when I graduated, so I decided to make my own choice before I could get a registration notice. I could have waited to be drafted for two years but I chose to go into the Air Force for four years.
Eventually the draft went away and we now have an all-volunteer force and it doesn’t appear that we will revert to a draft any time soon unless all hell breaks loose somewhere.
Personally, I do not believe the United States should have an all-volunteer military because our government has shifted from a defensive strategy where we go to war in response to someone attacking the U. S. or one of its’ allies to a more offensive strategy where we now initiate war in an effort to insure the continued flow of resources from these countries such as oil, natural gas, metals like copper and rare resources that we need to make sophisticated weapons of war.
The biggest reason I do not support an All-Volunteer force is because it does not support the principle of Shared Sacrifice.
Ever since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started, there have been numerous debates and discussions that Americans are not equally sacrificing blood and resources – and to support that statement, one has to only look at the number of body bags returning from combat.
Oh, I forgot, we are not allowed to see the thousands of body bags that so frequently arrive at the Dover AFB Mortuary in Dover, Delaware.
So, let’s discuss that – why do you think the media are not allowed to photograph the flag draped caskets as they come off the large airplanes arriving at Dover AFB, Delaware?
Our government deceives us by saying that the policy is in place out of respect for the families of the dead military.
I think to show respect for the military who have died as well as showing respect for their families, there should be a ceremony at the plane as the flag draped coffins are taken off the plane. Honor them that way.
There is a big difference in seeing a current count of the number of military deaths in the news, such how many troops have died in combat versus how many troops have actually died in the countries where the wars are actually taking place versus seeing those flag draped bodies coming off a plane.
The visual impact of an entire cargo airplane filled with flag draped body bags can overwhelm a nation so our government wants to take that element out of the eyes of the media in a way to almost act like these deaths have never happened. How sad. To me, not showing the planes being unloaded disrespects those who died.
Getting back to shared values, the zip codes in our country with the most expensive homes seldom experience the death of a military person killed in Afghanistan or Iraq – and that is what I mean by there is no shared sacrifice being made regarding our wars.
I would go one step further – zip codes of average and poor Americans share in the loss of blood in combat whereas the more affluent zip codes in America represent the owners and the investors of companies who are making money on the war – i.e. those who own and manage weapons manufacturers. Those who make the weapons, for the most part, do everything to keep their kids out of the military – so no one needs to come down their street to notify them that their son or daughter died in combat.
When I do get a chance to see one of those body bags covered with an American flag on television or in the newspaper, I pause and wonder – is that soldier the son or daughter of someone I went to school with or lived next door to me? Did that soldier in that body bag have kids, a wife or husband, siblings, or even a loyal pet?
The more affluent only have to ponder if the deceased military person is the son or daughter of their gardener or their UPS delivery person or their housekeeper.
Let’s get back to body counts in war zones – for example, four soldiers killed in a Humvee by an IED are counted as casualties but four soldiers in a Humvee that accidently drives into the Euphrates River in Iraq are not counted as combat deaths – those are counted as accidental deaths. Another tricky way of counting military deaths in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is to not count a military death if the soldier in question was alive, but seriously injured, but died at a military hospital in Germany or even the United States. I don’t know if that has been “corrected” yet, but it is just a shell game to keep the public from finding out the real death count resulting from our country’s hasty decision to go to war.
Another major problem with an all-volunteer force is that these same troops go from a tour in Iraq back to the United States and then back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Then they come back and have a few months at their stateside base and then it is off again to Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of our military have gone on 7 or 8 tours. Can you imagine going to war 7 or 8 times before you reach 30 years of age?
Maybe someone in the Pentagon military assignments office thinks that the change of scenery from Iraq to Afghanistan would be like how the snowbirds in the U.S. go on winter vacation from Michigan and Minnesota to Arizona and New Mexico – the big difference is that you can be killed in Afghanistan as well as you can in Iraq.
The other problem, as I see it, is that injured troops on the battlefield are getting almost instantaneous care in the field which results in more troops coming home with missing limbs. In addition, those who come back with PTSD get mentally patched up and returned to combat zones when they should instead be put out to pasture and reassigned to a base in the states to finish out their career or their service obligation.
Our government from the top down is lying to Americans – saying that we do not need a draft. Hundreds of thousands of our bravest have been injured – physically and/or emotionally – and they keep getting patched up like a leaky tire and sent back into combat. These “retreaded” troops are terribly stressed out – they have either participated in atrocities or they have seen atrocities done by our combat aircraft, including drone attacks where thousands or even tens of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis have been either killed or maimed and the statistics are being brushed off and these deaths simply become collateral damage. The statistics might go away but the visual impact of seeing all these deaths will never go away.
The kids and women and the elderly these soldiers see die almost daily has a tremendous emotional effect on them.
I know that war I dirty, but we make no serious effort to “clean it up.” By that I mean if our drone attacks are being directed as a result of too much incorrect or inaccurate information, then we should stop drone attacks immediately until we can determine that our targeting capability is more accurate.
Because of what they have seen happen or what they have participated in, some of these troops suffering from PTSD come home to abuse their spouses, go on crime sprees, suffer from substance abuse or end up involved in DUI’s.
The recent case of a soldier who is accused of killing 16 Afghans is from a Joint military base in the state of Washington. This same base, Joint Military Base Ft Lewis – McChord, (JMBT) has been called the most troubled base in the military. One group has said that it is not that the soldier who is accused of killing the Afghans is a rogue soldier; it is that he comes from JMBT which is considered a rogue military installation – possibly the worst in the entire military.
The real problem is that there is way too much pain and suffering to go around – PTSD, physical injuries, death – and our current military is being recycled over and over from one combat assignment to another – one stressful situation to another with no relief in sight and with rumors about a war with Iran is hanging over the heads of our all-volunteer military and their families.
Many of these troops come home and do not know how to sit down again for a normal meal with family and friends – they do not know how to share their experiences because in some cases they are part of the problem – some of them have committed war crimes because they were directed to do so by their senior NCO’s and officer and they could not refuse for fear of either being court martialed or worse yet being killed by one of their own, which is called fratricide. Most cases of fratricide are simply written off as accidental shootings – wrong place and the wrong time.
Some soldiers are overly zealous and will commit war crimes if ordered to do so – even though they know they are following illegal orders.
So, back to the title of this blog – who is and who isn’t supporting the troops?
I think many of those who are supporting the troops, with care packages or yellow ribbons or pats on the back when they return should consider shifting the focus of supporting the troops BEFORE they go into combat.
It is the responsibility of all Americans to find out if we are going into war for the right reasons. Are the facts that any Administration is using to go into combat really “facts” or are they a serious of rumors and untruths and in some cases outward lies that the government is using to initiate an illegal war.
If that is the case, it is the responsibility for those who know of these lies and untruths to spread the information to everyone they possible can and also write their Congressmen and Congresswomen and express their concerns and if their representatives do nothing about it, then citizens should take to the streets to draw the attention of all Americans from border to border.
If we can stop an illegal war or an unjustified war before it starts, then we will not have soldiers coming back in flag draped body bags, we will not have soldiers coming back missing limbs, nor will we have hundreds of thousands of troops coming back with PTSD that will get into trouble with the law and they also will not have drug problems – nor will they be inclined to beat their spouses and kids.
Another thing that has to be done is to take the profit factor out of the equation. There are 40 – 50 large corporations that make billions, if not trillions, from war. If some of these companies were nationalized, costs would go down and that money could be used for health care, education, and public safety.
Another immediate thing that could be done is to institute a draft – a draft where everyone within a certain age group has to serve a minimum of two years in the service – a procedure that Israel has in place and that requires all men and women to serve in the military. Maybe if everyone had to serve – which would be, in effect, a shared sacrifice that includes young Americans in all socio-economic levels, then – maybe then – there would not be an obsession to go to war. After fulfilling their two year obligation anyone who wanted to make a career out of the military could apply, and if approved, could stay in the service.
Do you think we would have 10 – 15 year wars, like we are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the daughters and sons of Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, and everyone in the current Administration chose to vote for war? Do you think the top 10 percent of the richest Americans would go along with war if their kids had to serve a minimum of two years, which could include serving in combat zones?
If we take the politics and profitability out of war – there will be no war.