Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

That is how long the audience at a recent Nationals game acknowledged the wounded from Walter Reed that were in the audience, according to the Washington Post.  Sixty three seconds.   One whole minute.   That is the extent of the “thanks of a grateful nation.:  “thanks for your service”  in the grocery store, which usually embarrasses the service member; or the ubiquitous yellow ribbon magnet on the back of the car  and poof, that’s probably the extent of the troop support that the military sees in this time of budget cuts and unemployment.

Troops often question why more have not answered the call to duty and why their sacrifices are so poorly understood by the people they serve.

For most Americans, the wars remain an abstraction,then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last year. “A distant, unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally.”

Distant unpleasant series of news items .  Those news items are not distant to me.  One of those news items was my friend M’s husband who lost his lower leg to an IED in Afghanistan; one of those news items was the KIA notification of  two young men from another friend’s unit; a few years ago, nine of those news items were those of the young men whose funerals I attended.

Those news items make me run to the map I have up to figure out how far that incident, that action may have been from where my husband is currently stationed. That gut check is common to all of us who are in deployment mode.

I was talking to a civilian friend about the article while we cleaned the cages at the cat shelter and she said something that gave me pause at first.  She asked why I was so surprised by the article, by the seeming lack of compassion by civilians.  My initial reaction was “Are you kidding?” We are AT WAR;  people are DYING and being WOUNDED!  But as she reminded me, the attention span of most people is the latest tweet they read, or the 30 second headline news “story”.

We’ve all heard about compassion fatigue, the news is always bad and we become immune to it, we can look at the pictures of dying children or wounded soldiers without flinching.  But thank goodness, there are still people who will change the channel when the ASPCA commercials come on, who weep when they see the pictures of children in refugee camps and send money to charities; these are the men and women who volunteer at the local VA hospital, the USO and pack care packages for Operation Gratitude.

In this same article, a great deal of print space is devoted to the latest commercial from Budweiser devoted to a returning servicemember  – now I have a HUGE problem with this.   I detest this type of “reunion porn” and what I see as exploitation, knee jerk reaction used for monetary gain.  The person who wrote this commercial came up with the idea after witnessing a reunion in an airport. Here’s a little fact that  almost surprised me.

Five days after President Obama announced his plan to pull 30,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, Byrne had no idea how many troops the United States had in the country and little sense of Obama’s plan to reduce their numbers. He acknowledged that he did not know much about the war

Did not know much about the war. And that, THAT  I don’t understand.  When your country is at war, when the military forces that wear YOUR country’s uniform are coming home in caskets, or on stretchers and swamping the hospitals; when the Army’s suicide rate is climbing every month;  or if your attention is glued to the budget battles when the cost of these wars has to be added to the budget,   how do you not “know much” about  one of the two wars your country is currently engaged in.  But you’ll feel free to use that story to sell lousy beer.

The final part of this piece in the Post is the most heartbreaking  A wounded soldier who has gone back to college, who is seeing this disconnection first hand.  A meeting held by a group of veterans in the school”  was designed to give students who knew little of the military or the wars a sense of what life was like for deployed service members. It provoked a genuine exchange,  more than 10 seconds, more than 60 seconds, more than 63 seconds, between the former service members and the student body.”  The reactions of the students  are mystifying to me .

I don’t think I realized that the soldiers over there were in that much danger, said [a student], who like many students was opposed to the war.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of risks that they were taking.

A young person who is at an institution like Georgetown didn’t understand, didn’t realize? This is a smart person, an educated person.   Obviously, more education is necessary ; obviously more understanding is needed of the reality of 10 years of war.

You may not agree with war, you may not agree with why we are fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, but isn’t it important to know, learn, understand?


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Occupational Lung Disease – for most of us that conjures up Black Lung in a coal miner; silicosis in a quarry worker;  and for an old paralegal ahem from the asbestos days, asbestosis or worse in a worker in a boiler factory.  It isn’t usually a condition that we think of as an “occupational hazard” for a soldier.  But a new report from the American Thoracic Society changes that pretty quickly. [i]    

My husband has talked about the stench of the burn pits, the choking smoke blowing into his face as he walked by during the deployments in Iraq.  Our son and daughter in law both remember seeing trash and worse being burned at every base and post they were on during their deployments.  The smell is horrendous from burning the effluent from the portajons, the smoke carries so much more than just a smell.  The heavy metals from burning batteries, the chemicals from burning plastic – such a wonderful potpourri!  IAVA and other veterans organizations have been advocating, demanding information and testing for years.

The dust and sand that filter into every nook and cranny is sneaky.  When my husband came home on leave during his first Iraq deployment, he brought his laptop home and took it to a computer store to be cleaned out.  The geek who blew it out scolded him for not taking better care of the laptop (it was in an area that doesn’t get too many soldiers coming in!) and wondered where he’d been with all that talcum like powder.  We all know what he meant, right?  That stuff is in all their clothes when they get back, and I’m still finding it in the trunks, or poofing out of the duffel bags when we start packing his stuff for the next deployment;  I was complaining about it after the last deployment, he told me I should be honored- this was the dust that built the bricks of early civilization!   I was looking through some books he’d brought home, and could still feel it in my fingers.

  “We’ve described a new disease called Iraq-Afghanistan War lung injury (IAW-LI), among soldiers deployed to these countries as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn” said Anthony Szema, MD, who co-chaired with Dr. Rose.

My husband calls this the Iraq/Afghanistan  “Agent Orange Syndrome”.  We remember how long it took for the VA and DoD to acknowledge Agent Orange as a reason for the diseases our veterans of Vietnam were experiencing; we aren’t going to let that happen again.

What does this have to do with MCAF and the Clean Air Act?  In my community- a lot!  Our servicemembers are coming home with respiratory problems.  To quote Dr. Szema:

“Not only do soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer serious respiratory problems at a rate seven times that of soldiers deployed elsewhere, but the respiratory issues they present with show a unique pattern of fixed obstruction in half of cases, while most of the rest are clinically-reversible new-onset asthma, in addition to the rare interstitial lung disease called nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis associated with inhalation of titanium and iron.”

With lungs affected like this – do they need to be subjected to even more?  Since we can’t usually chose where we live, since DoD sends us to bases all over the country, are we going to end up on a base or post downwind from one of the coal fired powerplants that are spewing high amounts of particulate into the prevailing winds?  So, I figure that joining Moms Clean Air Force and working for clean air, isn’t just for my granddaughter, but also for her mommy and daddy, who were downrange of the burnpits in Iraq, and for her grandpa Chief, who is going to be walking around them again soon.  Won’t you join us?  http://www.momscleanairforce.org/

[i] American Thoracic Society (2011, May 18). Occupational lung diseases in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/05/110518105515.htm

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