How the Wounded Return from America's Wars
The Untold Story
By Ann Jones
Copyright 2013 Ann Jones
Published by Haymarket Books
"You know most of the men want to go back to the fight. That's the good news. But it's not patriotism that keeps them in the fight. Patriotism may get them in the door. Poverty may get them in the door. Hope for an education and a better future may get them in the door. But what keeps them in the fight is their friends. Well, not friends exactly. The 'band of brothers' doesn't necessarily mean they like each other. But they have a strong sense of dependence and mutual support. They say, 'They need me, and I need them to survive.' They often see their injury and rehab as a time of letting down their brothers."
He pauses to size up his listener, then offers a familiar opinion: " I don't think a civilian can understand any of this reality."
"But what message, I wonder, might an evangelical chaplain deliver to terribly damaged troops who have surrendered their future to the Department of Defense. "That's what they ask, you know," that chaplain tells me. "First they want to know if their buddies are okay, and then that is the next question: 'Where was God when this terrible thing happened to my friends,or happened to me?'
"Did they expect God to show up?" I ask.
"They're very young, you know," the chaplain says, "and very susceptible to disillusionment. They've grown up with movies and TV programs about good guys and bad guys in conflicts where simple solutions are reached in half an hour. The faith they profess is very naive.It leaves them more susceptible to moral injury. They face the realization that the good guy doesn't always win. God does not always intervene."
"Patient number three looks okay, but for the flattening of the blanket under the SMEED. He's lost both legs, but both below the knee. He has his hands. He has his junk. Of these four patients, he's the one the military and the media will call "lucky." But the doctor doesn't call him that. He says, "You can't assess his injuries in comparison to those of other soldiers who happen to be on the same plane. You have to assess them in comparison to who he was before." He is a boy who used to have legs and now he doesn't."
"The MATC at Walter Reed might be mistaken at first glance for a high-class fitness spa, but stick around to watch and begins to resemble a circle in hell. Perhaps it seems that way to me because I've followed soldiers with catastrophic injuries all the way from Afghanistan, moving up the levels of trauma care, always thinking that if a soldier can survive this step to Bragram, or this to LRMC, or this to Walter Reed, he or she will be alright. You can't help but get your hopes up. Then to arrive stateside and see no miracles sets you back. The soldiers are safe, but safety brings them only time to contemplate their wounds and confirm that they are no longer themselves. The job of recreating their lives is theirs now, and it is just beginning."
"Newspapers carry stories of soldiers cycling and skiing on brand new, state-of-the-art prosthetic devices, leaving the impression that getting new legs is as easy a buying a pair of boots. It's not."
"Historically, in the trenches of the Marne, as on the beaches of Normandy and Guadalcanal, it was the justness of the cause of which soldiers fought that ennobled their sacrifice--not the other way around. Which means that the death, dismemberment, and disintegration of misled young men and women should not redeem the misbegotten "wars of choice" chosen for us by leaders who have never been to war. Still, those sacrificial soldiers do lay claim to our conscience: all those kids who drank the recruiters' Kool-Aid and died, and those who still bravely soldier on with their brand-new titanium legs and blasted genitals and decommissioned brains."
BY MARCUS LUTTRELL
with Patrick Robinson
Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown & Company 2007
"We knew the American intelligence agencies believed he had such a program, that somewhere in this vast country...there were centrifuges trying to manufacture the world's most dangerous substance. Did Saddam actually own the completed article, a finely tuned atomic bomb or missle? Probably not. No one ever thought he did. But as former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld once remarked, "What do you want to do? Leave him alone till he does?"
"We continued our operations, looking for key insurgents, forcing or bribing the information out of them. But it already seemed their recruiting numbers were limitless. No matter had many we ran to the ground, there were always more. It was the first time we first heard of the rise of this sinister group who called themselves al Qaeda in Iraq. It was an undisguised terrorist operation, dedicated to mayhem and murder, especially of us."
"There were times when it all seemed to grow calmer, and then on July 4, a taped voice, which al-Jazeera television said was Saddam, urged everyone to join the resistance and fight the U.S. occupation to the death. We thought that was kind of stupid, because we weren't trying to occupy anything. We were just trying to stop these crazy pricks from blowing up and wiping out the civilian population of the country we had just liberated from one of the biggest bastards in history."
"Looking back, during the long journey in the C-130 to Afghanistan, I was more acutely aware of a growing problem which faces U.S. forces on active duty in theaters of war all over the world.For me, it began in Iraq, the first murmurings from the liberal part of the U.S.A. that we were somehow in the wrong, brutal killers, bullying other countries; that we who put our lives on the line for our nation at the behest of our government should somehow be charged with murder for shootingour enemy."
" At that time, Texas itself was in boom-time hog heaven. Out in West Texas, where the oil drillers and everyone surrounding them were becoming multimillionaires, the price of oil went up 800 percent between 1973 and 1981... The oil money just washed right off, and people were making fortunes in anything that smacked of luxury, anything to feed the egos of the oil guys, who were spending and borrowing money at a rate never seen before or since. At one time there were 4,500 oil rigs running in the U.S.A., most of them in Texas."
."I have long since worked out that when the crash came in Texas, its effects were magnified a thousandfold, because the guys in the oil industry sincerely believed money had nothing to do with luck. They thought their prosperity came from their own sheer brilliance. No one gave much consideration to the world oil market being controlled in the Middle East by Muslims....
The key to it was geopolitical. And Texas could only stand and watch helplessly as the oil glut manifested itself and the price per barrel began to slide downward to an ultimate low of around $9. That was in 1986 when I was not quite ten... My family lost everything, including our house."
"In our part of East Texas, there are a lot of past and present special forces guys, quiet, understated iron men, most of them unsung heroes except among their families.But they don't serve in the U.S. Armed Forces for personal recognition or glory. They do it because deep in their granite souls they feel a slight shiver when they see Old Glory fluttering above them on the parade square...When the president walks out to the strains of a U.S. military band's "Hail to the Chief, there's a moment of solemnity for each and every one of them--for our president, our country, and what our country has meant to the world and the many people who never had a chance without America."
"The second operation in Afghanistan, the snatch-and-grab of Abdul the Bombmaker or whatever the hell his name was, brought home two aspects of this conflict to us newly arrived SEALs. First, the rabid hatred these Muslim extremists had for all of us; second, the awkwardness of complying with our rules of engagement (ROE) in this type of warfare.
Our rules of engagement in Afghanistan specified that we could not shoot, kill,or injured unarmed civilians. But what about...an entire secret army, diverse, fragmented, and lethal, creeping through the mountains in Afghanistan pretending to be civilians?"
"We all knew we'd chosen what 999 Americans out of every thousand would not even think about doing. And we were taught that we were necessary for the security of the nation. We were sent to Afghanistan to carry out hugely dangerous missions.But we were also told that we could not shoot that camel drover before he blew up all of us, because he might be an unarmed citizen just taking his dynamite for a walk."
".. by all that's holy, I don't think my own God wished me to die. If He had been indifferent to my plight, He surely would not have taken such good care of my gun, right? Because how on earth that was still with me, I will never know. That rifle had so far fought three separate battles in three different places, been ripped out of my grasp twice, been blown over a cliff by a powerful grenade, fallen almost nine hundred feet down a mountain, and was still somehow right next to my outstretched hand. Fluke? Believe what you will. My own faith will remain forever unshaken."
"I think it was about then I understood how utterly alone I was for the very first time. And the Taliban was hunting me. Despite my injuries, I knew I had to reach deep. It was the first time in my entire six-year career as a Navy SEAL I had been really scared....I had no idea what the hell was going on. But now I shall recount, to the best of my gathered knowledge, what happened elsewhere on that saddest of afternoons, that most shocking massacre high in the Hindu Kush, the worst disaster ever to befall the SEALs in any conflict in our more than forty-year history."
"It was two hundred feet to that water. It took me two more hours. I blacked out twice, and when I reached it, I plunged my head in, just to free up my tongue and throat.....when I noticed there were three guys standing right above me, two fo them with AKs. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating. I stopped drinking. The only thought I had was I'll kill these guys...just give me my chance. As I made my way, slowly, painfully, almost blindly to the bigger rocks up ahead it did cross my mind that if these guys really wanted to shoot me they could have done it by now I flicked off the safety catch on my rifle and kept crawling, straight into a dead end surrounded by huge boulder on all sides. This was it. Marcus's last stand." p. 280.
"To an American, especially one in such terrible shape as I was, the concept of helping out a wounded, possibly dying man is pretty routine. You do what you can. For these guys, the concept carried many onerous responsibilities. Lokhay means not only providing care and shelter, it means an unbreakable commitment to defend that wounded man to the death. And not just the death of the principal tribesman or family who made the original commitment for the "giving of a pot." It means the whole damned village. Lokhay means the population of that village will fight to the last man, honor-bound to protect the individual they have invited in to share their hospitality."
Our mission may have been strategic, it may have been a secret. However, one point was crystalline clear, at least to the six SEALs in that rumbling Hercules high above the Arabian desert. This was payback time for the World Trade Center....Dead ahead, in Afghanistan, awaited an ancient battleground where we could match our enemy, strength, stealth for stealth, steel for steel.
By Ann Jones
Copyright 2013 Ann Jones
Published by Haymarket Books
BY MARCUS LUTTRELL
with Patrick Robinson
Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown & Company 2007
Map of IEDs buried in Afghanistan.
Gratitude is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the others.
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
~General Martin Dempsey
"Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state."
"If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more frightened."
~ General George S. Patton
"In the time between war and peace, it is easy to lose sight of the objectives for which one embarked upon war in the first place, and to forfeit the grasp on accomplishments bought at great expense to the treasury and the lives and health of the nations' soldiery."
~ Colonel Matthew Moten
"Security is an illusion. It does not exist in nature; and nor do the children of men
'The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible."
~Arthur C. Clark
"I will build a motor car for the great multitude...constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest of designs that modern engineering can devise...so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one--and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."
"We aren't addicted to oil, but our cars are."
"Every success is the mother of countless others."
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works."
"Everything is someplace else, and you get there in a car."
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL COST OF LEARNING TO KILL IN WAR AND SOCIETY
LT. COL. DAVE GROSSMAN
1995 LITTLE, BROWN and COMPANY
During World War II more than 800,000 men were classified 4-F (unfit for military service) due to psychiatric reasons. Despite this effort to weed out those mentally and emotionally unfit for combat, America's armed forces lost an additional 504,000 men from the fighting effort because of psychiatric collapse--enough to man fifty divisions! At one point in World War II, psychiatric casualties were being discharged from the U.S. Army faster than new recruits were being drafted in. p.43
It is interesting to note that spending months of continuous exposure to the stresses of combat is a phenomenon found only on the battlefields of this century. Even the years-long sieges of previous centuries provided ample respite from combat, largely due to limitations of artillery and tactics. The actual times of personal risk were seldom more than a few hours in duration. Some psychiatric casualties have always been associated with war, but it is only in this century that our physical and logistical capability to sustain combat has completely outstripped our psychological capacity to endure it. p.45 .
"I am sick and tired of war. It's glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell."
~William Tecumseh Sherman.
"No plan survives first contact with the military."
"The basic aim of a nation at war is establishing an image of the enemy in order to distinguish as sharply as possible the act of killing from the act of murder."
~Glen Gray The Warriors
"In his book No More Heroes Richard Gabriel examines the many historical symptoms and manifestations of psychiatric casualties. Among these are fatigue cases, confusional states, conversion hysteria, anxiety states, obsessional and compulsive states, and character disorders.
Fatigue Cases--- This state of physical and mental exhaustion is one of the earliest symptoms. Increasingly unsociable and overly irritable, the soldier loses interest in all activities with comrades and seeks to avoid any responsibility or activity involving physical or mental effort. He becomes prone to crying fits of extreme anxiety or terror. There will also be such somatic symptoms as hypersensitivity to sound, increased sweating, and palpitations. Such fatigue cases set the stage for further and more complete collapse. If the soldier is forced to remain in combat, such collapse becomes inevitable; the only real cure is evacuation and rest. p. 45
Confusional States--Fatigue can quickly shift into the psychotic dissociation from reality that marks confusional states. Usually, the soldier no longer knows who he is or where he is. Unable to deal with his environment, he has mentally removed himself from it. Symptoms include delirium, psychotic dissociation, and manic-depressive mood swings. One often noted response is Ganzer syndrome, in which the soldier will begin to make jokes, act silly, and otherwise try to ward off the horror with humor and the ridiculous. p.45
Conversion Hysteria-- Conversion hysteria can occur traumatically during combat or post-traumatically, years later. Conversion hysterical can manifest itself as an inability to know where one is or to function at all, often accompanied by aimless wandering around the battlefield with complete disregard for evident dangers. Upon occasion the soldier becomes amnesiatic, blocking our large parts of his memory. Gabriel notes that during both world wars cases of contractive paralysis of the arm were quite common, and usually the arm use to pull the trigger was the one that became paralyzed. A soldier may become hysterical after being knocked out with a concussion, after receiving a minor non-debilitating wound, or after experiencing a near miss. Whatever the physical manifestations, it is always the mind that produces the symptoms, in order to escape or avoid the horror of combat. p.47
Anxiety States-- These states are characterized by feelings of total weariness and tenseness that cannot be relieved by sleep or rest, degenerating into an inability to concentrate. When he can sleep, the soldier is often awakened by terrible nightmares. Ultimately the soldier becomes obsessed with death and the fear that he will fail or that the men in his unit will discover that he is a coward. Generalized anxiety can easily slip into complete hysteria. Frequently anxiety is accompanied by shortness of breath, weaknesss, pain, blurred vision, giddiness, vasomotor abnormalities, and fainting. Another reaction, which is commonly seen in Vietnam Veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) years after combat, is emotional hypertension, in which the soldier's blood pressure rises dramatically with all the accompanying symptoms of sweating, nervousness, and so on. p.47
Obsessional and Compulsive States--These states are similar to conversion hysteria, except that here the soldiers realizes the morbid nature of his symptoms and that his fears are at their root. Even so, his tremors, palpitations, stammers, tics, and so on cannot be controlled. Eventually the soldier is likely to take refuge in some type of hysterical reaction that allows him to escape psychic responsibility for his symptoms. p.47
Character Disorders-- Character disorders included obsessional traits in which the soldier becomes fixated on certain actions or things; paranoid trends accompanied by irascibility, depression, and anxiety, often taking on the tone of threats to his safety; schizoid trends leading to hypersensitivity and isolation; epileptoid character reactions accompanied by periodic rages; the development of extreme dramatic religiosity; and finally degenerations into a psychotic personality. What has happened to the soldier is an altering of his fundamental personality." p.48
"The first quality of a soldier is constancy in enduring fatigue and hardship. Courage is only the second. Poverty, privation and want are the school of the good soldier."
"To understand the intensity of the body's physiological response to the stress of combat we must understand the mobilization of resources caused by the body's sympathetic backlash response.The sympathetic nervous system mobilizes and directs the body's energy resources for action. The parasympathetic system is responsible for the body's digestive and recuperative processes.
Usually these systems sustain a general balance between their demands upon the body's resources, but during extremely stressful circumstance the fight-or-flight response kicks in and the sympathetic nervous system mobilizes ALL available energy for survival. In combat, this very often results in nonessential activities such as digestion, bladder control, and and sphincter control being completely shut down. This process is so intense that soldiers very often suffer stress diarrhea. A soldier must pay a physiological price for an energizing process this intense.The price that the body pays is an equally powerful backlash when the neglected demands of the parasympathetic system return. The parasympathetic backlash occurs as soon as the danger and the excitement is over, and it takes the form of an incredibly powerful weariness and sleepiness on the part of the soldiers.
It is basically for this reason that the maintenance of fresh reserves has always been essential in combat, with battles often revolving around which side can hold and deploy their reserves last. In continuous combat the soldier roller-coasters through seemingly endless surges of adrenaline and subsequent backlashes, and the body's natural, useful, and appropriate response to to danger ultimately becomes extremely counterproductive.
Unable to flee, and unable to overcome the danger through a brief burst of fighting, posturing, or submission, the bodies of modern soldiers quickly exhaust their capacity to energize and they slide into a state of profound physical and emotional exhaustion of such a magnitude and dimension that it appears to be almost impossible to communicate it to those who have not experienced it. A soldier in this state will inevitably collapse from nervous exhaustion--the body will simply burn out." p.70- 71
"What Have We Done to Our Soldiers? The Rationalization of Killing and How It Failed in Vietnam
Something unique seems to have occurred in the rationalization process available to the Vietnam veteran.
Compared with earlier American wars the Vietnam conflict appears to have reversed most of the processes traditionally used to facilitate the rationalization and acceptance of killing experiences. These involve: Constant praise and assurance to the soldier from peers and superiors that he "did the right thing..." (manifestation--awarding of medals and decorations.) The constant presence of mature, older comrades (late twenties and thirties) who serve as role models and stabilizing personality factors in the combat environment. A careful adherence to such codes and conventions of warfare by both sides (such as the Geneva conventions, est. 1864) thereby limiting civilian casualties and atrocities. Rear lines or clearly defined safe areas where the soldier can go to relax and depressurize during a combat tour. The presence of close, trusted friends and confidants who have been present during training and are present throughout the combat experience. A cool down period as the soldier and his comrades sail or march back from the wars. Knowledge of the ultimate victory of their side and of the gain and accomplishments made possible by their sacrifices. Parades and monuments. Reunions and continued communication (visits, mail and so on) with the individuals whom the soldier bonded with in combat. An unconditionally warm and admiring welcome by friends, family communities, and society, constantly reassuring the soldier that the war and his personal acts were for a necessary, just and righteous cause. The proud display of medals."
"During [and after] the 1991 Gulf War it appears we generally got these right, but we must make sure that we always do so in the future." p 262-264, p. 293
"The military may be fighting a war. Or wars. But we, as a country, are not."
WE ARE TURNING ADS
FOR AUTOMOTIVE BUSINESSES
INTO AID FOR INJURED VETERANS.
"The all volunteer force is not a blessing. It has become a blight. Americans can, of course, choose to pretend otherwise, but those choosing such a course cannot be said to love their country. Nor can they be said to care about the well-being of those sent to fight on the country's behalf."
~ Ret. Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich
"We all knew we'd chosen what 999 Americans out of every thousand would not even think about doing. And we were taught that we were necessary for the security of the nation. We were sent to Afghanistan to carry out hugely dangerous missions. But we were also told that we could not shoot that camel drover before he blew up all of us, because he might be an unarmed citizen just taking his dynamite for a walk."
"A people who's primary aims are driving, shopping, and television are subject to terrorism at any time".
~Steven Deltz Quotes
The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon... it sounds romantic, but it's true - the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine - a few cars touch on it, but not too many compared to motorcycles. I always felt that any motorcycle journey was special.