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.

PISSED OFF AND MELANCHOLY |

January 17, 2014

Name: Mikey Piro
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Lindenhurst, NY
Milblog: ptsdsurvivordaily
Email: mpiro45@gmail.com

THE LONE SURVIVOR, THE WORTH OF FALLUJAH, AND PTSD

With the news of Fallujah I can't shake a gnawing emotional agony from reflection. There are a lot of great articles coming out, most focusing on the Marines who fought there. But what's happened in Fallujah can be viewed as the high-profile early-bird precursor to the potential fate of every city across Iraq. I think the question resonates deeply with everyone who fought: Was it worth it?

On top of the Fallujah questions, I have seemingly more people than ever wanting to talk to me about my service because of the movie Lone Survivor. I have not seen it yet. I am by no means close to the caliber of the SEALs and SOAR aviators who fought and died in Operation Red Wings. Still, because of the current Veteran's place as "the other 1%", I am the closest thing most people know to compare to those stellar Soldiers. I don't know how to respond. I told my wife I wanted to see it, but I am honestly afraid of what my reaction will be, and that makes me want to see it more. (As a side note, if you have seen Lone Survivor and it is fucking you up, don't hesitate to reach out.)

Most days, if I get cocky, I think I have this PTSD shit licked. Then the real world interrupts, and the collision of these two public events has sent me back to Earth like an Airborne trooper with a cigarette roll. This past week I am mostly just pissed off and melancholy.

I find myself desperately searching for positives from my war. I turn and look to Vietnam and the similar history of a war both won and lost at the same time. I look to their subsequent actions and their activism to baseline where we have "progressed."  Should I even try to find a positive in such an evil thing as war? Is that the only way to make sense?

Did fewer people die in Iraq and Afghanistan than Vietnam? Statistically I think there is data to support that notion. Though it makes me sad to think of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead because of our intervention, the advances in medical technology certainly saved more people on the battlefield and that can be seen as a positive, right? But despite my fondness for metrics, those numbers don't mean shit to me when the smell of blood and cordite still haunts me in my nightmares. The numbers now do not help the amputees. How many children are now parentless?

Is there strong enough causality to the change this war initiated back home? Equality got a boost because of this war. The men and women sacrificing while having their rights ignored pushed many debates into the open. Hypotheticals became actuals. There is a whole other blog post about just those effects alone. But was it worth it?

We suspected this would be the case. We told ourselves that what we did had meaning and lasting impact and would not be in vain. I remember one of my LT's pointedly questioning the Colonel about the history of "defeating" insurgencies. What made us so special? How were we different? His question echoes today.

Was it worth it?

I resort to the idea that anything anyone thought they went looking for or thought they went fighting for was erased with the first bullet fired in anger. All that was left were the men and women you went to hell with and doing what was asked to get them home. Unfortunately, there is only a small section of the United States who can and will ever understand the sacrifices made by a voluntary few. At this point in history, if I try to understand the value of worth of our efforts beyond that, my head explodes and I am left picking up the pieces.

Was it worth it? At this point, I don't know. I may never know. And that is part of the extreme mindscrew.

Comments

You went. You served. You bled. You cried. You survived.
You and yours were committed to the task and each other. Each has taken a different perspective home from the experience. Your home, not their home.
One thing we, as Americans, have to realize is that not every people have the same feeling of country and loyalty that Americans have.
Iraq is a compilation of different cultures, religions and loyalties. That is what we forget. That is not what the point was when you were sent to bleed and die there. We keep trying to pound a rectangular peg into a hexagonal hole. It might go in, but there are all kinds of holes left untouched, which we accept blindly as inevitable. We accomplished the task given.
We go away patting ourselves on the back that we gave a country "FREEDOM".
Now it is their problem on how to make it work. We continue to NOT LEARN from history. We are an experience that "worked" at that time in history. We had a common experience, a common culture.
Unfortunately, we are rapidly losing sight of what we fought and died for at that juncture of history. Too few are willing to even vote to guide the direction of this country, let alone be willing to join the military, to fight and to die.
Thank you for your service. The question to you is, "Was what you did, what you experiences, what you survived worth your time, your suffering and your friendships that will last, if you wish for them to."
What happens after you did your duty, is beyond your control. You were not tasked with teaching those you gave an opportunity to have a better life how to live that life. You gave them the opportunity. That was all you were required to do.

I don't feel that I or any other person who is not a combat veteran has the standing to comment on what you've written. Nonetheless, I have to say that this post and the previous thoughtful comment constitute a powerful, comprehensive essay on the Middle East wars that all Americans should take to heart, must take to heart, if we are ever to have a military policy that does not beg the question "Was it worth it?"

The policymakers who create these horrors recoil from the pain of a paper cut. Can the rest of us who have no skin in the game not see how wrong this is and do something to balance the scales?  How about we vote for rational behavior in Washington? Yeah, I said VOTE.

I have never been in the military. I was 22 yrs old when the Viet Nam war ended. I knew then the war was a crime against humanity. On September 12, 2001, I knew the coming war would be no different.

When I came back from Vietnam that was the question. Was it worth it??

In the years since I've come to see that is the wrong time to ask that question. The question needs to be answered before anyone goes 'over there'.

If we can't know it'll be worth it before we commit, then we can't commit.

For Mikey Piro; you went, did your job, did what was asked, did what YOU believed was right. Fuck yeah it was worth it!

I served in the USMC but not in combat. I think the question is focused on the wrong part of a much larger issue. If the question forces humans to consider whether or not violence is our chosen method of settling our differences than it could be worth it.

If we realize that violence/fighting is a habit humans should have outgrown decades ago than it could be worth it. If we finally understand that we have choices between acting as animals and using killing to settle disagreements or using our intellectual skills, negotiations, creativity and diplomacy than it could be worth it.

Your voice and those of all veterans who know the truth about the value of war could finally demand the human race grow up.

Mikey, Thank you for your service to our country first and foremost! Life seems to be filled with questions like yours. Most don't carry the weight that your question does. Others, can compare to that magnitude. I hope you find your answer to that question either way it is answered, yes or no. I do not have a military background, so I can not compare anything to your question you wrestle with. I can only be thankful that there are men and women who answer the call to protect our country or those that are in need.
You are our hero's!

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