I remember a time when I would threaten a person for not respecting our flag and loving our country. "Love it or leave it," I used to say; "these colors don't run" was another one. I loved my country and thought it loved me back. I was gung-ho all the way. I thought there was no greater occupation than to fight and defend one's country. Hell, my dad did it, and his before him. I would often boast how there had been a Gaddy in every war since the American Revolution. I hoped to have the opportunity to defend my country in a war, like my dad, my uncle, and both my grandfathers
I attended and graduated from Virginia Military Institute, still believed in defending America, and was commissioned into the U.S. Army. I wanted to be the best soldier and patriot I could be. 9-11 happened and I was fired up, ready to go seek revenge for what had been done to my country and its people. I ridiculed the plastic patriots that were suddenly waving the flag and yelling, "America is #1," because I had been doing it for years.
I believed my government and its multitude of lies when it ordered me and others, to protect freedom, and spread it to the oppressed people in the Middle East. The army was the army; it had its faults, but I was going to fight America's enemy and I was ready, even excited. So, in October of 2004, I was deployed to Iraq; Northern Iraq to be exact, a nice little vacation spot named, Tal Afar. I didn't find the enemy of America there; I found regular people who were just trying to be free and out from under the new oppression that we placed on them as a conquering army. I didn't find crowds of cheering people thanking me for their freedom; I found hell; a place where death and destruction awaited the freedom-creating US Army around every corner.
Being a student of history, the longer I was there, the more I began to feel very Roman, killing and conquering all in the name of Caesar Bush and the empire called America. I watched as my commander committed war crime after war crime, shooting civilians and calling it victory in battle. He would place whole neighborhoods and villages in my detention facility for months; flex cuffed, thrown into old dirty bunkers, constantly interrogated, denied medications, and kept from their families. His reason for this action that created more enemies than it eliminated: he wanted to, and was sure his actions would be called heroic and would earn him accolades and promotions. Most soldiers on his staff were too worried about their careers to call him on his criminal actions; those who did were relieved of command and called cowards or "gone over to the other side."
I watched as he was promoted and his commanders praised him, completely ignoring his war crimes. I too, did things that I am not proud of, things I must live with every day. I began to find it impossible to justify what I was participating in, I refused the awards and decorations that were offered, for that is not what I saw the heroes of my youth do for their country. That's not what my country told me I would be doing, that's not how defenders of freedom and democracy are supposed to conduct themselves, at least not the ones they told us about in school. I was supposed to bring freedom and democracy to the oppressed and defend my country from her enemies, not put innocent people under the boot. I found myself, and my country, being the oppressor of freedom, not the liberator as we claimed.
I believed the honest people of America would hate me and call for my arrest if they knew what was going on, but, I came home and they thanked me and bought me a beer. They said, "good job," "We hope you killed a lot of those SOBs for what they did." What they did was nothing; I was more a terrorist than any Iraqi I meet on the street or in battle. The only difference was I had a state sponsor.
I came home, my body and mind damaged, not as bad as some, but damaged just the same. I looked for help, but there was none. When I told my superiors, including my Chaplain, how I felt about the war, they tried to get me out as quickly as possible so I would not become a "bullet" on the general morning SITREP, and a statistic that would hurt the war effort.
I have gone to the VA repeatedly, but have not gotten any help. They gave me drugs, told me nothing was wrong with me. They told me to just stop bitching and that I should be grateful I get free healthcare. Officially, The VA told me there was nothing wrong with me that I was not in combat, because I didn't have the 10-cent badge I had refused. A badge I refused because the army, in attempts to make people feel better about the crimes they had committed, handed them out like candy. I have been continually told nothing is wrong with me, despite the fact their own physicians were treating me for PTSD and had diagnosed me as having classic symptoms. Granted, the VA's kind of treatment is to drug you out of your mind and put you on such an emotional roller coaster that you’re better off without that kind of treatment. Hell, I am a walking drugstore thanks to the VA; I've got uppers, downers and all-a-rounder's.
I am lucky I have the job I struggle to maintain everyday because of the insurance. I struggle to feel normal again, trying to fix the damage to my body and mind that was broken in a country I should have never been in. Recently, I have discovered what my dad warned me about many years ago was true: my country does not care about me; I am just a warm body that once used, they can throw away and forget.
All those pseudo-patriotic Christian warmongers want to give me for my emotional nightmares and guilt is a beer and a thank you. So wave your damn flag and feel good about yourself when you say thank you to a vet. Go ahead, buy him a beer and congratulate him on his personal body count. I say this: don't thank us for what we did, because if you knew what we really did in your name, you would not thank us and buy us a beer.
Help us, because the country you so blindly support will not, and for God's sake do not support sending more of our youth into that hell. Their blood, and the blood of the innocent they kill is on your hands!
February 17, 2009