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thedrifter
02-06-07, 02:43 PM
Globalist Perspective > Global Security
The War at Home (Part I)

By Markus Ziener | Monday, February 05, 2007

In order to get a real sense of the fallout of the Iraq War at the other frontline — the home front — Markus Ziener went to Hinesville, Georgia, the headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He talked with families there whose lives are intimately affected by the war — and found that the conflict's reach extends far beyond Baghdad.

Every time a breeze springs up, the tinny tags on the trees start to chime. The soldiers call them “dog tags,” and usually they dangle around their necks.

Some carry the soldier’s name, unit and date of birth. Others bear an aphorism or a verse from the Bible.

A soldier loses his tags

Gregory P. Sanders had engraved this: “I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged,

John L. Hartman did not have to return to Iraq for a third combat tour, but he chose to go in place of a fellow soldier with a newborn son.

for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go.” The quotation was taken from the book of Joshua, chapter 1, verse 9.

Sanders carried the tag around his neck on the final day of his life, March 24, 2003. That day, when he was proceeding with his unit towards Baghdad, he was killed by a sniper bullet.

Sanders was barely 19 years old when his life came to an end. Now his tag is loosely wrapped around a branch of a tree — and makes noises with every gust of the wind.

Trees represent dead soldiers

Gregory P. Sanders was one of the first foot soldiers from Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia, to die in Iraq. And for the time being, Staff Sergeant John L. Hartman Jr. is the last. When a few days ago the memorial ceremony for Hartman began, it was raining and freezing cold.

Another Eastern Red Bud Tree — the 318th — was planted along the “Warriors Walk.” Each tree represents a soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division who has died since March 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq.

Sadness surrounds the war

An honor guard presented the colors and Hartman’s two children were trying to take shelter under a blanket while the soldiers sang “God Bless America.”

As the kids were fighting the cold and their tears, a profound sadness took hold of the mourners.

Sanders was barely 19 years old when his life came to an end. Now his tag is loosely wrapped around a branch of a tree – and makes noises with every gust of the wind.

John L. Hartman did not have to return to Iraq for a third combat tour, but he chose to go in place of a fellow soldier with a newborn son.

When the Humvee in which he was riding was hit by a roadside bomb, Hartman was killed. He was 39 years old. “Every year the trees begin to blossom in spring, exactly at the time we captured Baghdad in 2003,” says a member of Fort Stewart's Public Affairs Office. But his remark remains as lonesome as the trees on “Warriors Walk.” Nothing helps.

More troops called to Iraq

And the war drags on. President George W. Bush recently announced the deployment of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. Mr. Bush now seems to be betting all his chips on his only choice. As he sees it, this is perhaps the final military push to turn the tide.

The re-adjusted strategy is labelled “clear, hold and build” and is to be implemented by David Petraeus, the newly installed top U.S. commander in Iraq.

U.S troops need help

Soldiers are supposed to go from door to door, clear houses of terrorists and prevent the rebels from returning once the soldiers have moved on.

A few months after Jennifer will have delivered the baby, squad-leader Robert will embark on another deployment to Iraq. He will stay there for another full year.

This strategy can only work if there is substantial and reliable backup by U.S. and Iraqi troops.

But Iraqi support is more and more doubtful. U.S. Army experts are continuously shocked by the poor state of the Iraqi forces. Therefore, it is almost certain that the U.S. troops can rely on nobody else but themselves. Under those circumstances, an extra 20,000-plus soldiers is far too little. A bloody spring looms over the U.S. military in Iraq.

“Sometimes I simply switch off the TV,” says Jennifer Duke. “The news from Iraq is just driving me crazy.” The 28-year old carries an unborn baby beneath her heart.

Families are separated

It is going to be the third child for the Duke family, and once again her husband Robert will miss important milestones in his childrens' lives.

A few months after Jennifer will have delivered the baby, Robert, a squad leader, will embark on another deployment to Iraq. He will stay there for another full year.

Troops try to stay connected

Whenever he will have some breathing space, he will turn on his computer and switch on the webcam.

In the beginning, Jennifer says, she supported the war. But with time, her doubts deepened. “It’s not clear anymore what we are doing there”, she says about the war in Iraq.

He will then watch his wife holding their baby in her arms. They will wave at each other, and they will try not to get too sentimental.

At some point, Jennifer might tell Robert of the first steps their youngest child might have ventured. For him, this experience will not be new, as he was also away in Iraq when their now four-year-old daughter Josselyn was little.

For Robert, being a soldier is not only a profession, it is a vocation. And there are some questions he would rather not ponder — at least not in public. But his wife does.

Doubts arise

In the beginning, Jennifer says, she supported the war. But with time, her doubts deepened. “It’s not clear anymore what we are doing there,” she says about the war in Iraq.

And without looking at her husband who is sitting next to her she says, “He does not question his job.”

A second family

Some seconds pass, and finally Robert steps in. He adds in a calm but self-assured voice: “I got nine people in my squad and they are my second family. My job is it to get them all home safe and sound.”

Then, all of a sudden, he opens his heart for a blink of an eye. “Of course, I am haunted by nightmares,” he confesses. “But I never bother my wife with this.”

Ellie

thedrifter
02-06-07, 02:45 PM
Globalist Perspective > Global Security
The War at Home (Part II)

By Markus Ziener | Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Many of the soldiers who return home from Iraq physically unharmed still carry the invisible mark of psychological trauma. These soldiers are often overwhelmed with sudden flashbacks of frightful images — and continue to feel trapped in the warrior’s world. As Markus Ziener explains in part two of his essay, alienation from their families is only one lingering effect of the war.

This kind of behavior is common practice among soldiers,” says Dr. Alan Baroody, Director of the Fraser Center in Hinesville. “They keep their thoughts to themselves.”

The Fraser Center offers therapy for soldiers and their families. According to a Pentagon study, 35% of them need help once their family members return from deployment.

Effects of war

“Very often, the soldiers behave aggressively, lose their temper easily, have forgotten how to deal with children and cannot stand noise anymore.” Their instincts are trained to keep anything at bay that might bring harm — and they continue to follow this pattern at home.


“Most of them are not so much afraid of dying in combat — but of coming home with a changed personality.”


Some of the soldiers drop out of family life and resort to the computer to play war video games. They cannot quit the world they have been in fpr the past 12 months. And they believe that the only people who understand what they are going through are the ones who have been through the same experiences.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February 2006, 17% of soldiers and Marines who returned from Iraq screened positive for Post Traumatic Stress Disorde (PTSD) general anxiety or depression — a prevalence nearly as twice that observed among soldiers surveyed before the deployment.

Uncertainties of war

The adjustment to civilian life is made particularly difficult by the unique

When Benderman opted out of the military, he might not have acted like a professional soldier who, after all, had enlisted voluntarily. Maybe he only behaved like a human being ridden with angst.

strains that insurgency warfare puts on soldiers. “This type of war — insurgency warfare — where you don't know whether you're going to be the next victim of a car bomb or roadside bomb or (rocket-propelled grenade)... it's like fighting in Vietnam when I was in the Mekong Delta,” says Anthony Principi, a former U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “You don’t know whether you’re getting into an ambush with guerrillas.”

At the same time, the wives of the servicemen suffer. “There is only a brief honeymoon period,” says Baroody, describing the time after the families have been reunited again. “All at once, the wives have to surrender all their autonomy they have assumed over the past year once again to their husbands,” adds Ronald Blaine Everson of the Fraser Center.

Integration of communication

The returning soldiers are well aware of this, says Baroody. “Most of them are not so much afraid of dying in combat, but of coming home with a changed personality.”


Internet, email and text messaging can help to maintain a tighter bond between the soldiers in Iraq and their families at home.


In this respect, modern means of communication are both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because Internet, email and text messaging can help to maintain a tighter bond between the soldiers in Iraq and their families at home.

But it can also be a curse since this bonding can add more stress to the troops in the field. “If a wife sends her husband text messages about financial problems at home, then often the soldier feels completely helpless,” says Everson. Such distractions can be particularly dangerous in situations where he has to do one thing above all: stay focused in order to sruvive.

Some people benefit

Everyone who drives along Highway 196 from Savannah to Hinesville can get an idea of who benefits from all the bitterness of a soldier's life. Law firms offer instant divorces for little money, dozens of car dealers take aim at the soldier’s hard-earned pay and high-interest lenders offer instant money.

About 147 churches provide their services for the broken-hearted and depressed — in a community that harbours roughly 30,000 people with a median age of 26.

A deserted town

Every time the 3rd Infantry Division deploys to Iraq, Hinesville turns into

But it can also be a curse since this bonding can add more stress to the troops in the field, such as, “if a wife sends her husband text messages about financial problems at home."

a ghost town — with the only people remaining being wives, children, elders and a basic crew that runs Fort Stewart.

The fast food chains shaping the townscape of Hinesville — Krystal, Ruby Tuesday, Checker, Subway or Wedgy — remain empty or shut down completely.

“One could sit at home and cry,” says one citizen of Hinesville describing the mood on the days after the troops are gone. “The war puts a heavy burden on everyone,” says Reverend Will Carter of St. Philips Episcopal Church in Hinesville. The burden is heavy on those who are leaving — but may be even heavier on those who remain.

A soldier resists

One of them who could but did not leave Hinesville is Kevin Benderman — although for him the town must be a steady reminder of a track in life gone wrong. About a year after serving his first tour in Iraq in 2003 and before he was due for a second tour in January 2005, he applied for conscientious objector status.

“It’s not right what we are doing there,” says the 42-year-old Benderman explaining his decision. Then he adds, “The military leadership is corrupt.”

A way out?

He then tries to illustrate why and how the U.S. military in Iraq is overburdened with the kind of guerrilla warfare faced by the troops.


"Very often, the soldiers behave aggressively, lose their temper easily, have forgotten how to deal with children and cannot stand noise anymore.”


Is that reason enough to run away from duty? Maybe Kevin Benderman was only afraid of not surviving another deployment, afraid of coming back wrapped in a black plastic body bag.

When Benderman opted out of the military, he might not have acted like a professional soldier who, after all, had enlisted voluntarily. Maybe he only behaved like a human being ridden with angst.

Consequences

Regardless, the price he paid was severe: For his refusal to return to Iraq, Benderman was sentenced by court-martial to 15 months in prison at Fort Louis in Washington State. He was demoted and is currently fighting to retain financial benefits he earned during his service in the army.

Unintentionally, he has become an icon of the anti-war movement. But deep in his heart, he has nothing against the military itself. He only disapproves of war — especially this war.

Ellie