Blood and Treasure

Tim Bean




I saw this headline this morning that read, “For US soldiers, repeat deployments ‘definitely take a toll’” and I didn’t even have to read the article to say, “No ____ Sherlock!”  These are our citizens that are being sent into harm’s way – repeatedly.  They are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.  They are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and colleagues.  In short, they are human beings, carrying with them all of the things that human beings have, thoughts, emotions, consciousness, and heart.  I believe our soldiers are the best trained and equipped soldiers in the world; and their military training and equipment does work to minimize some of those human things from getting the best of them when the “stuff” goes down; but it only minimizes it, they are still human.

Since they are human it only stands to reason that if you send a person into combat for however long it may be, I believe the typical deployment lasts about a year, and then send them back home to be with their families and friends, and then after a while you send them back into combat for another year, and so on and so forth, then how can that not “definitely take a toll” on that person?

I suppose some out there can, and would, make the argument that this comes with the territory when these people volunteered and signed their names on the dotted line at the recruiting office.  Okay, fine; yes, if you, of your own accord, joined the military then it is true, the possibility of deployment into armed conflict comes with your decision.  So, I agree with that, I am not so naïve to think that it is all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns; however, the thing about some of the people who would make this argument are also of the mindset that these repeated deployments are necessary to keep America safe from terrorists and claim to cherish our soldiers so much.

Here’s the thing though, if the war on terror is of such a vital importance, and you hold our soldiers in such high regard (which I wholeheartedly support our men and women in uniform by the way, I am the son of a Viet Nam Vet, and have a family member serving in the military) then (1) the continued deployments of our soldiers and the effect it has on them and their families should make you at least a little upset – whether it’s what comes with joining the military or not; and (2) why aren’t you volunteering for military service to help fight the war on terror; and to take some of the stress off of our soldiers?  Think about it, your presence could mean one less deployment for another soldier; just sayin’.

Better yet, how about we reinstitute the draft, and conscript tens, if not hundreds of thousands more young men into our military, so that we have enough personnel to minimize the possibility of multiple deployments; as well as crush all those who oppose us; would that be something that you would be on board for?

That previous sentence is meant to be satirical; because I don’t think too many people out there would be for conscription.

Since many people have no connection to the military, and little to no contact with those who serve in uniform, these repeated deployments do not affect them or their lives in the least.  Outside of what they see on the news or read online the war on terror has little to no effect on their lives either – with the exception of the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act; but even then most people aren’t even aware of what those laws allow the federal government to do to them.

With regards to the actual war on terror there have “only” been around 50,000 American service personnel killed and wounded, and since most people have little to no contact with the military this means that most people haven’t really been “treated” to witnessing, let alone experiencing what any of that means or feels like.  I have had the honor (and I sincerely mean honor, I am not trying to be cute or satirical) of meeting two former service men who were wounded while serving in Iraq.  When I say wounded, I don’t mean they were shot; one was critically wounded when his Humvee came in contact with a roadside bomb, and the other was critically wounded by a suicide bomber.  They both were lucky to survive and they both bare scars that are not pleasant to look at.  They are both young men, who do, and will require some sort of medical assistance for the rest of their lives; and the thing that strikes me about both of these men is how well adjusted they are; though both confessed having nightmares about their incidents.

I do not bring this up as some sort of sob story, I bring it up because until you see for yourself the effect war has, the human toll, then it is all too easy to sit in your living room and play armchair general, commanding, and demanding that we send more of our blood and treasure to fight for, and die in countries that don’t necessarily hate America, but they do hate that our government insists on sending our military over there.  Yes, they did volunteer for service in our military, but this shouldn’t mean that just because they signed on for it we need to continue to roll the dice with them and their families’ lives.  Just because we have the most advanced and well train military doesn’t mean we have to prove it.  The ancient Greek state of Sparta had the best trained and most feared military of their day, and that state was continually reluctant to commit its treasured armies to conflict; not because they were chicken (read about the battle of Thermopylae as proof of the Spartans bravery), but because they knew the value and worth of each of their soldiers’ lives.  The Spartans, whose entire culture was devoted to and centered around a military life, used their army as deterrence, not as a projection of power and conquest.

If you are truly an advocate for, and supporter of our men and women in uniform, then shouldn’t you also be reluctant to continually send them around the globe, risking their lives and limbs in continual conflict?  Shouldn’t you question the use of our military to police the world?  Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if it is worth the spilling of their blood in places that have demonstrated the lack of want of our military’s presence in their country – not to mention the thousands of innocent people in those countries that also die from simply being caught in the middle of the violence?  Which brings me to this next question regarding the violence and vitriol against American soldiers and their presence in many foreign countries; places where we are told our military presence is needed, despite the already mentioned fact that we are not wanted there; the question is this, how would you respond if a foreign country sent its troops over here under the guise of protecting its interests?  What if China, fearing that it wasn’t going to get paid in full for all of the US debt it holds decided the best way to ensure payment was to send over troops in the name of protecting its interests?  Would you not react in a similar fashion as those who act out against our military presence over there?  Or would you simply say, “Hey they’re only protecting their interests, it’s no big deal.”

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I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

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