Ranger Mitch: A Casualty of War

Ranger Mitch is a soldier's soldier, a man among men. He is an Airborne Qualified Infantry soldier who later earned his half-moon crest as a Ranger. He also qualified as one of the elite Green Berets, where he served as a medic. A Special Forces Medic is a unique individual, one who would qualify as a doctor in many third world countries. Mitch is more proud of being an Airborne Ranger than any of his other military accomplishments, thus his preferred moniker, Ranger Mitch.

Today, Ranger Mitch is confined to a Veterans Hospital in one of the western states. Ironically, those he sought to serve, and those whom he loved, inflicted the wounds that placed Mitch in this prison for those disabled by the wars of the State.

In Desert Storm I, Mitch was serving with a Special Forces A-team somewhere in Iraq. He was with this team and several indigenous personnel when an artillery round exploded in close proximity to them. Mitch recognized quickly that this was a round with chemical warfare agents, as opposed to a high-explosive (HE) round. Mitch yelled to the others to put on their gas masks and to get out of the immediate area as quickly as possible. He assisted several of the indigenous personnel in their escape from the area, as they were not equipped with gas masks.

Within a couple of years of Mitch's return to the U.S., he began to suffer from severe headaches and otherwise erratic behavior. When he first went to sick call at his military post, they thought he was suffering from ingestion of illegal drugs. He had to endure all of the tests the Army ordered to discover this was not the case. Later, at home, he collapsed and suffered what would later be identified as a seizure. After hospitalization for a few days, Ranger Mitch was informed that he had a brain tumor and would require immediate surgery.

This surgery for the tumor turned into two surgeries, and then three. Before each surgery Mitch was told his chances of surviving was considerably less than 50 percent, but survive he did. These surgeries and the effects of the tumor left Mitch blind in his left eye and a loss of motor skills in his left leg and left arm. He had problems taking thoughts and transferring them to the spoken word. He would come to realize he had lost hearing in his left ear. Naturally, Mitch was given a discharge from the Army he had honorably served for 23 years.

Within the next couple of years Mitch would learn that several other members of his team had suffered a similar fate: some had had the same surgery, and some had not survived. He was unable to get any information concerning the health and well being of the indigenous personnel.

Mitch did an exhaustive study and found to his consternation that there were no enemy artillery units close enough to have fired the artillery round containing the chemical agents. Although not being able to 100% rule out enemy delivery, the likelihood was very slim. Mitch, to this day, is adamant in his belief the artillery round that exploded near his team that day was one of "ours."

If one has had the good fortune to know an Army Ranger, they know and understand the grit and determination Ranger Mitch has exhibited since his surgeries, and dealing with his disabilities. He takes each day as it comes with the heart of a lion. Mitch has also learned from his military experience, as others have before him, that "war is a racket" and the "health of the State."

In March of 2003, Ranger Mitch was downtown with some friends during the demonstrations in his hometown that were both for and against the invasion of Iraq. Mitch had gone alone into a restaurant to get a cup of coffee while his friends were in the business next door. While there, a group came in who had been in the "pro" war demonstration. They were talking and attempting to rally the folks in the restaurant to support for the war. Ranger Mitch was quick to tell them that he did not support the war and began to tell them why. He was shouted down and approached in a menacing manner by one man who told him that he should just leave the country with a taunt of "why don't you just move to Iraq, traitor?" Ranger Mitch believes the man would have attacked him physically had it not been for the proprietor of the restaurant. Imagine if you will, a man with all his faculties physically threatening a man with one eye and a cane! Is this not the epitome of the neoconservative mentality?

This experience was devastating for Mitch; he spent days in a depressed fog. He could not believe that people could be so violently opposed to hearing him out. He knew that the man did not know of his background or experience, but felt he had a right to be heard and to voice his opinions as a free American.

Things have not gone well for Mitch over the past year. His wife decided that he was too much to care for and actually told him, " I liked you better the way you were before." Mitch responded, "So did I!" She ferreted him off to the VA Hospital where he now spends his time thinking of his young daughter and devising ways to harass his friends by mail and phone calls.

How many more Ranger Mitch's must we create before we see the insanity of war? I end this piece as I end my frequent phone conversations with Ranger Mitch: take care Brother, and Sua Sponte.

January 26, 2005