Saturday, April 14, 2007

The "E" word

Extension. The rumors had been flying for weeks. No one knew just how deeply and directly it would affect every member of the military who is now or will be doing time in Iraq or Afghanistan (oh, and don't think Afghanistan is any better than Iraq). It is the latest move by the Pentagon to cope with the strains of fighting two wars simultaneously and maintaining a higher troop level in Iraq as part of President Bush's revised strategy for stabilizing Baghdad. What good does a high troop level do if they are demoralized, devastated and just plain exhausted from their expected 12 month deployment?

The hard, ugly truth is that these soldiers will be staying in Iraq for 15 months, not the 12 months on their orders. They say, 15 months "in country" to assure that they will have 12 months with their families when they get home. Yeah, right, if there is a family left still waiting. Divorce rates are soaring among military families; who can sustain a relationship, married or not if the deal is you keep having to go through that revolving door to Iraq, back home, only to return to Iraq. It is obscene that this administration thinks that 15 months in the hell hole that is Iraq is okay. No big deal, it's just 3 months longer than they were expected to serve. No big deal.

The administration says this country is at war; there have to be sacrifices, but I wonder why it has to be the same 1% who are bearing those sacrifices? No, this country is not at war; our military is, and Bush should just stop saying that.

That many service members heard the news of the extension via email from their spouses or family members just shows how little regard this administration has for the military they lead. There was no advanced notice from the Department of Defense to the families so they could process this tough news. There was no consistent, timely message from their commanders to the troops in the field so that all who were affected would find out at the same time. They can find out from the news media, just like everyone else. What does it matter? They all volunteered.

Back in April 2004 when my son, Lt Ken Ballard was still alive and the 1st Armored Division was extended for 120 days, the families were devastated. When Ken called to tell me of the extension, I put on a good face for him, but I just wanted to scream and howl! He should have heard me 11 timezones away; a sound that no wounded animal could make, a sound that I did not recognize coming from me and a sound that I would soon become familiar with. My heart was fragile already and with this news it nearly broke into a million pieces. If only I knew what another phone call would reveal in 6 weeks. If only I knew what a broken heart really felt like.

During the 384 days that Ken served in Iraq, we frequently talked about conditions, the mental status of Ken and his guys. I told him that they could do anything for a finite period of time; as long as they knew the end date. What could I say when we found out he would have to be there for 120 more days when they had already turned in their weapons, only to have them reissued? What could I say when I knew they had sent their personal possessions home and were literally counting the days in single digits to marching out of Baghdad? How could the Army keep moving that date, the day that they all lived for, focused on getting the hell out of Iraq and coming home? And how could they extend the date when all of the soldiers of 2-37 had survived that year in hell? Calculating the luck to time ratio was not spoken, but I did it and I'm sure Ken did, too. But, Ken explained, they had not completed their mission and when they did, they would come home. Ken apparently completed his mission on 5.30.04 when he was killed in Najaf and that's how he was able to come home.

This extension is get another way to use and abuse the troops and their families. The new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi said, "The Bush Administration has failed to create a plan to fully equip and train our troops, bring them home safely and soon, and provide our veterans with the quality care they deserve," "Extending the tours of all active-duty Army personnel is an unacceptable price for our troops and their families to pay."

Hey George, who supports the troops?


Chancelucky said...

The irony is that an administration that constantly talks about "supporting the troops" seems to be insisting that the troops make the only direct sacrifices in this war.
After 9/11 the President encouraged everyone else to go shopping.

GSMSO said...

Chance- I hope you notice that this president always finds an opportunity to use the troops as a backdrop for his speeches as he's stabbing them in the back.

They are just his little green army men to use at his will.

It's just wrong!

oh, sorry, gotta go, there's a sale at the mall! Don't want to be rude, but the president told me to go shopping......