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March 1, 2005
Coming HomeBy Greyhawk
When does leave no man behind stop mattering?
When the chartered plane carrying them to Utah from Fort Carson, Colo., had no room for a few of their comrades, the 30 Army Reserve soldiers of a Utah National Guard unit opted for an all-night bus ride rather than leaving two or three members behind to find their own transportation home.
The Christian Science Monitor has a good one too. The story of the first homecomings for elements of the 1st Cav.
It's been a long road home for soldiers from Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division. They said goodbye two Christmases ago, and lives have changed in the meantime. Babies have been born. Siblings have graduated. Parents have retired.
The story illustrates that some things change with time:
Indeed, many here say they understand the mission of the United States and support it - unlike 30 years ago when troops returned home from Vietnam to a very angry and fractured nation.
While some things will never change. And those things are the stresses that every returning GI will feel. My personal toughest spot in transitioning so far has been a fairly sleepless night just before my first day back at work. I can tell you exactly what was bugging me - I was leaving behind a situation where what I was doing was front page news, was directly shaping the history of the world, was sometimes dangerous and sometimes exciting. But that was over now, and I was returning to something a little less intense, a lot more like a nine-to-five office job - a lot more routine. I have no doubt what I prefer (probably exactly the opposite of most sane people!) but duty is duty and I'll be fine.
We are sitting through a multitude of soporific briefings. The longest is of course our day 2, our ?Don?t beat your wife or girlfriend or kids while drinking all the beer in Schweinfurt and contemplating killing yourself? day. We receive chaplains brief on combat stress and strains in our lives.
Like me they're in Germany - and surrounded by family, friends, and brothers-in-arms who've been through much of what they have.
But other folks are having tougher times. Sminklemeyer was In Iraq for 365
It?s the same nightmare every time? I?m in the town of Avgoni on an operation. We?re moving through the woods. Then shots are fired. A soldier next to me is hit in the neck. I try to help him, but it?s hopeless. He?s lost too much blood as he goes into shock. In the dream, I can feel somebody watching me even as the medics move and a platoon secures a perimeter for a helicopter. The kid is young, maybe 20, and I just look into his lifeless blue eyes while the medics move him to the evacuation point. I feel like I?m invisible and nobody in the dream seems to recognize me or realize I?m standing there with a camera and an M-16. Everybody leaves. And then I am back at the Palace, where again I feel invisible. At my desk is a CD with Arabic writing. I pop it into my laptop, and it?s a video of me.
He's getting help.
I?ve never been to a shrink before, but I?m not ashamed or afraid. I just don?t want to deal with it 10 years from now. I survived a war, and I?m going to make damn sure I survive peace.
And there's a message there for anyone coming home - and I applaud him for sharing it. (You can offer encouragement here.) That step forward took at least as much guts as daily operations in Iraq, a courage of a different sort. If you or someone you know isn't adjusting well to the home front lifestyle, get help. It's there for you and no one will think less of you for seeking it. If you really aren't comfortable speaking to medical folks or those in your chain of command, see the Chaplain first. Even if you aren't the same religion these guys are trained counselors, they can help you or find someone who can, and they are one of the few people you can talk to who aren't required to tell your chain of command everything you say. Likewise if you're a relative of someone who seems to be having a hard time coping but who won't seek help, visit the Chaplain and let them know your concerns. Do not wait! Do not become a statistic!
The folks returning from Iraq have accomplished great things, at great personal cost.
Initially, the 1st Cavalry Division was scheduled to come back before Christmas 2004, but were asked to stay through the Iraqi elections to provide security. That request took the hardest toll on the families, says Swick.
And that was a great way to close out the tour of duty. Mission accomplished - job well done. Hold your heads high and don't let a tragic postscript spoil the happy ending.
Here's the answer to the question we started this with: When does "leave no man behind" stop mattering?
Posted by Greyhawk / March 1, 2005 8:22 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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