Ode To The Guard

Sorry, there's some ranting in here too

I’ve mentioned him on here before but never to the degree that he deserves. Some might recall that my neighbor in the town I live recently returned home from a 16-month deployment in Iraq. He left behind a wife, two little girls and a ton of responsibilities that quickly became the burden of his family.

It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

Weeks before he left to Fort Campbell the agony on his and his wife’s face was evident. It was like watching zombies walk. Their whole world had stopped. And we all knew it would probably never be the same. All they wanted was for their little girls to retain some sort of normalcy while he was gone, and in case he never came back.

He’s a civil engineer, middle class American. He joined the National Guard at 19 to help pay for college expenses and because he wanted to serve. He’s been in the Guard for 12 years. He has no regrets and frankly wants no sympathies. He knew when he signed up what the commitment meant. He never once complained that he had to go, or that he shouldn’t be going because he was in the Guard and not active military. The one time I asked him what he thought about people who complain about deploying the Guard to battle his reply was along the lines of: those who complain have probably never enlisted in anything their whole lives and if we don’t use our military to fight a war then what do we use.

I suppose the point to this post is to state that the Guard is doing a terrific job, in most cases more than they were ever trained to do. Sure they are citizen soldiers, but they are also soldiers ready to go wherever they are sent. If we weren’t sending the Guard or the reserves, the only other possible thing that we could do is have a draft. And those same people complaining about deploying the Guard would be complaining about the draft. It’s a no win situation for the government.

But it is this government that refuses to accept the reality that it is not only unfair but also entirely catastrophic to place the burden of this war only on the military and their families. By doing so, the government allows for the debate at home to be largely engaged by people who are not fully affected by the war. People who have no personal stake in the war other than personal financial gains end up controlling the debate and the direction of this war. It’s a disservice to this country.

This “war-lite” forces political parties to become the commander-in-chief for military strategy as well as creating a public with no sense of the war or the situation that our Marines and soldiers face day in and day out. It creates a situation to where the public becomes at odds with itself. The slightest mention of anything Iraq becomes not a rallying cry for a war effort, but an instant rebuttal for ones worth as an American. War-lite doesn’t help fight a war one bit. It creates a false sense of no war.

Sure Iraq is one messed up place. Sure Iraq is nothing Bush promised it would be. But I can’t help but think that I haven’t done a goddamn thing with my life when compared to those men and women who are doing nothing short of miracles everyday in a war torn country and then returning home to a nation lost in political debates while our congressmen run from indictments in their yellow placard ribbon SUVs and terrified of being labeled “soft on terrorism.” This isn’t a war effort. This is a nation detached from the grand service of its sons and daughters. So fuck this war if we’re not allowed to care about it.

Even my neighbor, after 16 months in country, vehemently opposes this war. He was opposed to it before we ever invaded Iraq because he said the invasion omitted every piece of historical knowledge about warfare and the Middle East that is known to the military. Yet he went, leaving everything he ever had behind. That’s a war effort!

After returning home he went back to his job as quietly as he left it. The smiles on his and his wife’s face while they’re out in the yard watching their little girls play will stop you in your tracks.


shayna said...

You have said what I have been trying to find the words to say, Chris... thank you...

Cowgirl said...

*applause* Hooah!

avereragebusinessman said...

Excellent post MJ.

I have nothing further to say.

In response to the post above about Gore: I have been watching this closely and I am beginning to wonder what is going on.

These next few months ill be interesting.

Lisa said...

I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but Gore seems like the most reasonable choice for the Democrats right now (especially after looking at all the other potential Dem candidates). I still think he's unelectable at this point. That certainly doesn't mean he won't be the Democratic nominee. The Democrats nominate unelectable people all the time. It's becoming a pattern with them. :P

Sminklemeyer said...

MJ, great post. i'm linking to this.

kbug said...

I just came over from Sminklemeyer's site...he said this was a must read, and I agree. Being the mother of a soldier currently deployed in Iraq, I have a personal connection to the war. I agree with you whole-heartedly when you speak of the disgusting political debates going on between politicians that can't hold a candle to our troops. I was never sure that we should have started this thing in the first place, but now that we're there, we need to see it through. But I'll be so thankful when all our troops come home.

Kent said...

'Iraq is nothing Bush promised it would be'? What a ridiculous statement, Christopher.

-- He promised free and fair elections and he's delivered.

-- He promised freedom to the Iraqi's and he's delivered.

-- He promised to rebuild Iraq and we're delivering.

-- He promised that capitalism would explode all over Iraq. It is.

Bottom line, there is much more good happening in Iraq than bad. Agree or disagree with policy, but what Iraq is NOT today is a dictatorial regime, thanks to President Bush.

And I would remind you and all the other Liberals out there that the troops OVERWHELMINGLY support the mission in Iraq AND their Commander In Chief.

Chris said...

Shayna, thank you. Sorry to ramble though.

Cowgirl, you are a soldier. And you are my hero. Thank you for your service.

Businessman, I've been known to be wrong before. Being a historian, I think history is on Gore's side ;)

Lisa, I'm not sure Gore is unelectable. He did win more votes than Bush in '00. And had Bush's brother not been the gov of FL, Gore would be in his fifth year now. The only pattern I'm seeing is the downward spiral of GOP numbers :)

Smink, that means a lot coming you. Thanks man. And thanks for the link.

Chris said...

kbug, I'm honored by your visit. I agree. We broke it, now we fix it. Thank you for your son's service. There's a special place in Heaven for you I'm sure.

Kent, the elections in Iraq are anything but free and fair. Entire ethnic groups have refused to participate. And elections are not democracy at all. Maybe you consider 1100 Iraqis being blown up in the streets every month to be freedom, but I don't. If they are so free, then why do Iraqis all the time say that they were much better off under Saddam than the chaos Bush brought. Yes we are rebuilding Iraq, I'll agree with that. Though, Cheney said that Iraq would rebuild itself with oil revenues, and that's not happening either. Again, Iraq is nothing Bush promised it would be.

Maybe you consider Halliburton's no bid contracts to be capitalism, but it's anything but. The only thing exploding all over Iraq are bombs. Besides, Iraq was much more of a quasi-capitalist society before the invasion than it is now.

No need to remind me as a liberal, cause you of all people no that I'm not a liberal. Thanks for reading Kent. But it looks like I'm not buying into it. Count me as one of the 70% of Americans that disapproves of the job Bush is doing.

I need to check out your site some this evening.

Kent said...

Check out IraqTheModel.blogspot.com

You'll learn a lot.

Kent said...

I'm sure you knew this: Iraq's Prime Minister-designate will present his Cabinet to Parliament on Saturday.

Despite your claims that 'Iraq is nothing like Bush promised it would be' it appears some real progress is being made.

Read R.F.L.