Iraq and Afghanistan Impacts

I decided for this week’s RED post to do the same for Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans that I did for Vietnam veterans last week. As far as I can tell, Mideast veterans aren’t facing the same contempt and insults that Vietnam veterans did. At least not to the same degree. I guess 9/11 made a difference in that respect, even though it seems that a fairly high percentage of Americans think we should not still be there. That includes veterans of the Mideast wars.

It doesn’t help that those we’re trying to help are bitterly divided among themselves along tribal lines. As one Marine put it, “The Marine Corps is a fighting force. Now we’re trying to be a police force.”

Two very articulate Marines at that link describe that and other troubles faced by US troops in the Mideast. Similar observations from a soldier here.

From this link:
“Beyond individual politicians, movements for full withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan—as well as to revoke the 2001 congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a post–September 11 blank check for successive administrations to expand the war on terrorism without bound—have been dead on arrival in Congress, despite their apparent popularity among the electorate. It is almost as if politicians don’t actually care what voters want.”

Not every soldier feels that way. Here’s the good and the bad, from ten soldiers of Fort Benning’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. 

The really good news stories are coming from many of these veterans and their families and survivors, as they work with fierce dedication to come alongside those veterans dealing with – or not dealing with – the extreme stresses caused by PTSD, multiple amputations,  TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from IEDs, and re-adjustment to a peacetime environment.

Examples:
The Independence Fund:  “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Independence Fund launched Independence@Home, an emergency program to directly support its catastrophically disabled Veterans, Caregivers and families. We shifted funding to assist our Heroes with emergent COVID-19 costs like mortgage/rent, utilities, childcare, transportation services, home WiFi services, household cleaning and upkeep, grocery and medical product delivery and streaming services for work and learning.”

Alongside Heroes:  “A mother of a soldier wounded in Iraq said this: ‘To all our Wounded Warriors: Know that through the support and prayers of family and friends, we won’t let you walk this journey alone! God Bless.’ … Thomas Yarber, in 2004 an Army lieutenant colonel, registered nurse, and the deputy commander of the Army’s 31st Combat Support Hospital (CSH), in Iraq … was asked what he would like Americans to know about the work his nurses were doing at the hospital’s facility in Baghdad. His response: ‘…We take care of these wounded soldiers so they can go home and be with their families. I want Americans to know that our nurses are here with those soldiers, that our nurses are with them if they die. My nurses are here, holding their hands.’ “

It’s a good thing that veterans are taking care of each other. I’m beginning to think that the US government has never given returning veterans the assistance they deserved.

From an insurance company: “Unfortunately, the VA has not yet decided on one clinical case definition for Gulf War Syndrome … Vaccinations, including Anthrax [may have caused Gulf War Syndrome] … An estimated one-third of all Gulf War Veterans experience symptoms … 80% of VA claims for Gulf War-related disabilities are denied.

At this link: veterans who are attorneys sue VA on behalf of veterans whose disability claims are denied.

Mideast veterans have cause to sue. From way back in 2014: for those who doubted the presence of WMDs in Iraq: “Iraqi and American soldiers recovered thousands of chemical munitions mostly in secret for three years…”  The way those WMDs were disposed of was inexcusable: “burn pits”.  Troops didn’t know what they were being exposed to. Government denial is flat-out evil.

” ‘It helps the VA check off the box, but it doesn’t help any one of our families in any way, shape or form,’ said Torres, whose husband Army Reserve Capt. Le Roy Torres spent years fighting the VA to connect his chronic respiratory and health conditions to his service in Iraq.”

There is a considerable resistance among prior military to “regime-change wars”. I found several similar links. Unfortunately, most of them have questionable allies or members.

As I said in an earlier article, I have come to believe that US troops are instrumental in shaking up the Mideast power structures and showing isolated people something radically different than they have known. Giving them hope. A vision of what could be. And I have come to believe that there are results in the spiritual world because of that which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. So the presence of US troops isn’t a waste. But those warriors are paying a high price for those results, and it may not be clear to them that they are accomplishing something very important. Let’s at least acknowledge the high price our American warriors are paying, and assure them that we respect them regardless of visible results on the human / political level.

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