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The Complications of War

Show me who makes a profit from war and I’ll show you how to stop war
–Henry Ford

Carry Me Home
Every so often someone approaches me, someone who knows I do my best to be an advocate for combat veterans, and either belligerently or apologetically, they proclaim:
“Young women should not be in combat. War ruins women.”
My reply is the same to all of them, be they meek or angry.
“I agree with you completely. And neither should young men be in combat. War ruins everything it touches with the exception of those few individuals who make a profit from the ruination.”
I mention this now in reference to Sergeant Bergdahl.
Lots of emotion flying around about this one. Yesterday, my friend Velda Brotherton wrote this thoughtful blog post. Now, and this could change by the time I get this essay on-line, it looks as though Berghdah did indeed desert. At least according to the men we’re seeing on the media who claim to be his buddies. My inclination is to trust a combat vet, so I’m going to go with the theory that these men really were with him in Afghanistan and that they are telling the truth as they know it.
I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around all this, so this morning when my good friend and Vietnam Veteran Jim Hale sent me the following email, I immediately asked him if I could share his thoughts with you about this complicated situation.
Here’s what Jim has to say.
This whole thing with the return of Bergdahl, the Afghanistan POW, took me back to 1968 when I considered walking away. Like him I was also 22 years old.

My illusions of the cause were broken after just 4 months in country. We were hated. Bad stuff was happening and it was all for a lie. Not just to me but most of us felt that.

Got on a C47 and went on an unauthorized R&R for two weeks in Thailand.

The girl I was with didn’t want me to leave, said she’d go with me, up to northern Thailand.

It sounded pretty good but I thought of my mother and never seeing her again. And I had buddies back in Vietnam some of them I’m still in touch with now.

So I went back to Vietnam and had to fill 2000 sandbags for my punishment. Was told I earned the sandbag beret and oh yeah, promoted to E5 within a few weeks.

Then all that shit happened, the Navy Seals, the mad minutes, the dead pregnant woman. The coup de grace, the Christmas skirmish and friendly fire. Severe PTSD for three quarters of my life.

What price we pay for our loyalty.

And the consequences are severe no matter what we do.

I can’t know his motivation for walking away but I think five years as a POW, all alone like that should be enough.

Yet I fear the last pound of flesh will be demanded. I fear they will now throw him in a US prison.

Please, let us all approach this complicated issue with as much compassion and insight as this Vietnam veteran, this man who, like Sergeant Bergdahl, has walked a trail that most of us can only imagine.

10 thoughts on “The Complications of War

  1. Thank you Pam, and especially thanks for sharing the letter from veteran Jim Hale. His words truly reflect what the men in battle feel. I too agree. If Sgt. Bergdahl did desert, five years in a Taliban prison is enough. Let him go home..

  2. I always feel uneasy talking about this stuff. I worry that what I think is just some warp in my own head (lots of evidence for that, LOL) but I’m awfully glad to hear what Jim had to say. It sounded familiar. And bless you for what you say. Keep it up, Pam. We need more “lovers” than “fighters,” and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

    • We do all see the world with our own special perspective. But I think, as long as we realize we don’t hold all the answers and that others opinions are just as valid as ours, we all gain by sharing these unique views. I hope so anyway. Thanks for sharing, Duke.

  3. When General Patton slapped a soldier, he was unaware of PTSD. The General was relieved of his command for that slap. There are currently a lot of TV talking heads who are slapping Sergeant Bergdahl, before they know all of the facts.

    A soldier on the battle field can suffer mental stress beyond anyone’s comprehension. Until those Television commentators put on the uniform and set foot on the battle field, they have no right to judge a soldier who was actually on the battle field. Whatever the soldier did, he will not spend one day in a federal prison, even if he is found guilty of deserting his post.

    As far as people complaining about the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for one soldier, most, if not all of the Taliban prisoners are going to be released at some point in the future. We are not going to kill them and we are not going to keep them locked up forever.

    There will always be opportunities to go to war, but that doesn’t mean war is the best course of action. We’ve tried that approach. War is pure hell for those troops on the front lines. That is why those who are quick to suggest a military solution are rarely willing to actually carry a weapon onto the battle field to help implement their approach to problem solving.

    I’m glad we got the soldier back. Let’s get him back to health and listen to what he has to say. We might all have a different opinion then, one way or the other about what he did or did not do. For all we know, he may never recover mentally from what he has been through. His penalty might be something he’ll be serving for the rest of his life, whether he is free to walk the streets or locked up in a prison.

  4. The whole Bergdahl situation is just very sad. The hippies had it right: War is unhealthy for children and other living things.

  5. Amen to Pam and Jim. All of us who have faced death, on the battlefield and beyond, must survive in our mind, heart and soul the best we can. Some are lucky enough to have someone like Pam and my wife Jan to help redirect us when we walk too close to the edge.

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