The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

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December 01, 2006

DOING THE BIDDING OF THE UNWILLING
Name: Tadpole
Posting date: 11/30/06
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog url: armysailor.com

I have to admit that I have been feeling pretty crappy lately. I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping, and I am having trouble staying focused. My tour is rapidly coming to an end, and I can feel it. I am ready to go home.

For a long while I was able to look at all the good we are doing in this country, whether it is building schools or killing Taliban, and use that as a means of staying motivated. But lately that hasn't been working. With each mission I can't help but worry in the back of my mind that this might be my last, and how much would it suck to die so close to the end...

But what's far worse, in my opinion, is the feeling I have been getting by reading some things from back at home. I read opinions of people who say that we (the service men and women) should be ashamed of ourselves, as if we had a choice in the matter. I will never be ashamed of my service. I may be ashamed of something I am asked to do by my country, but then I think civilians should feel ashamed of themselves for letting me (a serviceman) be put in such a situation. How easy it has become to send men into harm's way. But it takes nerve to blame us for it.

What is worse is that I recently read an article about students against the draft. That's fine, I personally am against any draft that is instituted for the purposes of serving a specific military mission. However, I am all for mandatory government service for everyone after high school. I think two years of service, whether in the Peace Corps, the Military, or as a government intern, would not only benefit America but would also benefit the people doing the service. What bothered me about this article in particular was the cowardice that so many American high school kids openly expressed, and the pride with which they seemed to express it. Some of these kids wouldn't be willing to die for anything. That is amazing to me. The way I was raised, cowardice is simply unacceptable. It is the worst of all sins, and it is shameful. It seems that all some kids want is to be able to play with their new Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or Playstation 3, and they don't even want to have to work for that. I sometimes fear that our opulence will lead to our ultimate demise, as it does in all great empires.

None of this has helped me get to sleep at night. None of it is helping my waning motivation. But it has helped concrete my personal belief that "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything".

Comments

The only people who should be ashamed of what is being done in Afganistan and Iraq are the politicians who got us into this quagmire. Military personel who are sent to do a job that others have refused to do themselves deserve our greatest respect and higest praise. There are many people like me who feel this way but we also feel like our voices have been made to count for nothing. May whatever deity you follow bless you and your fellow soldiers twenty times over for your service to humanity and your country.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for you. I hope you make it home in one piece! I'm surprised to hear that you have read opinions of people who suggest people in the military should be ashamed. I have not seen that recently and had hoped that we as a country would avoid repeating the shameful way we treated servicemen and women returning from Vietnam. I believe the vast majority of Americans feel respectful of your service. As for the young people....I would feel more despair, but working in a school, I see so many good ones, that I have to think we'll be ok in the end. Smile. People you don't even know are sending you love and best wishes.

You would not ask a blind person to discribe the color green, nor ask the deaf to sing B flat, why would you expect those without courage to find something to die for? They don't have that level of perception and committment = they are only flawed and might be healed or helped, we can only pray. Take care out there, I am counting on you.

Amen brother..

The USA isn't like most empires thankfully, complacency will happen in any society but is most dangerous at the top. In our democracy the top can only get as complacent as the public let them. This is in contrast to the Roman empire where the emperor was there for life, and acted as such.

I'm sorry that people blame the servicemen and women for the mistakes of our benighted leaders. I don't think most people feel that way, no matter how they feel about the wars. Unfortunately, sometimes the loudest voices are the most clueless.

As for the draft -- how would you feel if someone threatened to compel you to fight in a war you believed to be unjust? An 18-year-old college student was 12 when Bush took power. It's been a difficult time in American politics, to say the least. He or she has known nothing else. Cut a little slack.

Thanks for posting, and good luck. Please don't read my disagreement as disrespectful.

Don't let the bastards get you down.

No soldier serving should be ashamed for any of their actions. What you are doing is the right thing, regardless of what some of the idiots back home may think.

Mr. Tadpole, You are absolutely correct. Citizens are responsible for their politicians. Civilian and military citizens have not been paying proper attention to the 'deciders.' Some of us believe the guy at the top wasn't even elected; that Iraq was invaded to distract us from that issue. None the less, we should have done more. I personally quit listening to news, I was so fustrated and depressed by events. I didn't want to hear any more, it was all as bad as any black humored joke I could come up with. Of course, that attitude makes those in charge stronger, so they get away with more. I don't have any answers, but I do know there is a life-time supply of manure to be shoveled.

I have not read any publication, or heard any radio or television report that had anything negative to say about the troops fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I would question the source of your information.

Not wanting to serve under a commander in chief that fights wars of choice and not necessity is not cowardice. I would suspect that most of those high schoolers would give different responses if Russia launched an invasion of Alaska.

Resist the temptation to chide those back in the states for a perceived lack of patriotism. It is as unseemly as anyone criticizing your service.

Tadpole,
Never, Never, NEVER be ashamed of your service. I am grateful for all the soldiers who go and serve. You and your comrades-in-arms are the ones who have the absolute right to voice their opinions about this war,our government and "leaders". What is shameful are the parents and the self-centerd, spoiled brats they have raised.

Be well and be safe, Tadpole. Rest assured that you are doing what is needed. You were raised right.

Dear Tadpole,
I live in a very "blue" area and have not heard anything like what you have described. Virtually no one blames military personnel when it is clear that this horrid war was invented at the top of our political food chain. Your feelings of distress/depression come from the fact that the military has been betrayed by people who never put themselves in harm's way for the good of their country (nor their children). You are living through a terrible time in American history, and it hurts.
Just put one foot in front of the other (carefully) & come back soon.

I have 3 things in common with a lot of Americans:

1) I supported the invasion of Afghanistan.

2) I did not support the invasion of Iraq.

3) I support all members of the US military, active or retired, in-country or out, all the time, without question.

Regardless of how these wars turn out, you're all coming home to a hero's welcome.

Tadpole,

When my son joined the Marines, most of his friends said "I could never do that!"

Most of their parents said (to themselves) "I'm so glad--insert child's name here--would never do that!Doesn't he know there is war on?"

My thought? Of course they COULD do that--they just DON'T.

You're a member of a pretty small and very exclusive club--those willing to serve.

When you get home this zoomie married to a swabbie, parents of a jarhead would love to tell you "Thanks, Sailor."

Don't let a few ignorant people spoil your day. 99.9% of Americans support the troops.

I'm pretty much like Nathan: support the military, supported Afghanistan, didn't support Iraq. And I'm damn proud of you for volunteering to make sure that I can voice my opinions.

Dissent is patriotic. Attacking the men and women who, regardless of their own opinions, give us the right to dissent is stupid.

I like the idea of an expanded national service program. I don't think making it mandatory would work. People have to do their own thing.

But, people are encouraged to do Americorps or the Peace Corps by the tuition assistance. It's not enough to attract people who don't REALLY want to do it.
When I looked into applying a few years ago, my college profs discouraged me because it was so competitive they said I wouldn't make it in. Too many kids wanted to do it.

That's sad, to me. We can't all be military. I'm pretty sure I'd be court martialed after the first day of Basic for saying "now, sir, are you sure there isn't a better way of doing this?"--that's just who I AM, and it gets me in trouble as a civilian! But we want to serve.

Look at the area devastated by Katrina. My cousin is spending 3 wks or so on a service project down there between trimesters. There's so much work to be done, and young idealists work pretty cheap. Imagine what he could do if he could stay a whole year down there!

There are lots of programs that encourage service to the US: some states pay tuition to teacher's college if a student agrees to teach in a shortage area in that state after grad, there's Teach for America, Americorps, programs that help new lawyers pay off their loans if they take public jobs, etc. But it still isn't enough to meet the demand of those who want to serve.

So thank you, Tadpole, and your buddies for taking on the ultimate service job.
There's a whole lot of people at home who support you and want to serve here.

The idea of national service for young people is an outstanding one. They do the same thing in Germany, where I've lived since being stationed here with the USAF. You can choose between a stint with the military (not much longer than a year!) or serve in what they refer to as civil service, which usually means being a helper to care givers in hospitals and homes for the elderly.

This is exactly what the youth of America needs. Most have very little or no idea what it means to be responsible for anything or anyone other than themselves and they rarely think beyond what aids their own personal gain and pleasure. Reality has become a no-go zone for most, they prefer the virtual worlds of their electronic games to actually getting their hands dirty and maybe having to cope with hardship from time to time. I understand your worries perfectly and share some of them with you.

Keep your head down and your spirits up and I hope you make it home in one piece, physically and mentally.

Tadpole - Political support for the war in Iraq is waning, but not once have I heard anyone not support the military. Please do not be disheartened as the thoughts and good wishes of the millions back home are with you and we hope with everything in us that you return home safely.

Tadpole: I think you may be misinterpreting disillusionment as cowardice. I for one would not join the service right now for any reason if given a choice, primarily because i disagree fundamentally with a full 80% of the ways in which american service men and women are being used.

I don't want to die in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, and wouldnt voluntarily put myself in those positions (although i could be talked into volunteering if i knew i was going to afghanistan...a superior mission that one)

However i do agree about the draft. We need to encourage a sense of national participation, so that voter apathy and single issue politicians cant drive us into any more foreign policy abominations.

If your source of information is in any way, shape, or form supported by the media then therin lies the problem. You get half-assed information and stories from abroad, just like we get the same half-assed stories of what is really going on over there. People in general may oppose war, but support for our troops is unquestionable. That goes for you as well as your brothers and sisters in arms. Please stay strong and remember no matter what you hear or read, you are a hero to the majority of true Americans. God Bless You. Be Safe!

As I read the comments on this blog I am truly scared for everyone over there. I am sorry that you feel you are not appreciated. I want you to know that my family and I truly appreciate what you are doing. We may not know everything that is going on over there and the President's address may be critized by other policial officials, but I know that no matter how many troops are over there, all of you are in harms way. I hope that God is with you and that you return safely each day. And We are proud of you.

"The difference between a brave man and a coward is a coward thinks twice before jumping in the cage with a lion. The brave man doesn't know what a lion is. He just thinks he does."

Charles Bukowski

Wouldn't mandatory civil service go against the idea of freedom that you are supposedly fighting for?

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