Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Conclusion: Changes and After-Effects

Part 1: A Disclaimer

(This is belated follow-up in a multi-part series I introduced, entitled Conclusion.)

First, a disclaimer.

To say that deployment to a combat zone – to say nothing about experiencing combat first hand – changes a person forever is a truism that hardly bears repeating. Except that so many people, including many combat Veterans, seem quick to dismiss such thoughts from their consciousness.

I hesitate to write this post because of what some cranks and critics might make of some of what I report. That, it seems to me, underscores my point. I’m not sure it’s a universally good idea talking about how wars change people. How one war in particular may have changed me.

Prior to getting home, I would have been in complete agreement with viewing an honest accounting as an imperative. Get the truth out there. Help other soldiers come to grips with what changes. Create transparency, openness, get a dialog going. In our case, very few of our soldiers saw anything remotely like combat, most never experienced hostile fire in any form.

Other than one very special group of our soldiers, most of us experienced only the potential for violence, in the form of logistic convoys (delightfully relabeled as “combat patrols” to enhance Officer Evaluation Reports (OERs) and the possibility of earning combat action badges. But I digress.

But we’ve been trained, all of us but with emphasis for leaders, to look for, anticipate, and help our soldiers cope with inevitable effects of their deployment experiences, in the combat zone, and after they return home.

As I said, prior to redeployment, I would have said, get the word out about what it was like. Talk about what it’s like being home. Be honest, open, help spread the word. Help each other who went over, and help those there now and those who will rotate in the months ahead. If it was nasty, talk about the nasty. If it was dangerous, talk about the danger and how you confront it, protect against it, and persevere. If it was stupid, talk about the stupid stuff so maybe others can have it better. If you lost something while you were there, if your mind and heart and feelings and attitudes changed, let people know.

That’s the MILBLOGGER way, right?

But I’m not so sure, now. So much of what we say gets scanned for any useful application in anti-war propaganda by the usual useful idiots, that I hesitate to “air the dirty laundry.” Because some of it may be useful to those who feign or perhaps firmly believe, that national security can somehow be just that (the security of our nation) without any cost, consequence or harm to any living thing. These would include pacifists, partisans, liberals and socialists, but they might find things negative in Veteran experiences, as fodder for their arguments.

As I write this, I straddle my own opinions, write or don’t, and reach back on impulse to the first of the conclusion pieces I wrote. I scan down to the comments, and reminisce with one of my commenters, Papa Ray, who wrote the following:

You’re in the zone, there are no endings, only new beginnings.
In fact, when you arrived in Iraq, you arrived right in the middle of a new beginning and when you look back in a few months or years, you will be involved in yet another new beginning for you and yours and Iraq will be involved in yet another new beginning as well.
I think you see that life is truly a "wheel of life" without any real ending or beginning.
"Round and round we go, where we stop...nobody knows." Remember that from somewhere back in your childhood? Kids have been singing and saying that for eternity.
It’s true, you know.

In the spirit of this wise counsel from Papa Ray, and with the awareness that much of what we observe and reflect open is as old as life itself, I think the answer is: Write away. Right away.

More to come soon.

Links: Mudville Gazette

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