From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Days for a Soldier Are Dark... We All Have a Responsibility.

Being acquainted with many, and very close to more than a few military families, I know well the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Stronger or better people I do not know. Whether they are active duty, reserve, national guard, or retired, they are poured from a different mold, stand a little taller, and will go a lot farther for a person. They bear both the scars and the blessings of their association with the military. It doesn't matter how long ago their service occurred. Millions have served this country, shed blood on foreign soil, and left parts of their hearts there as well. They should be numbered and their names remembered as the patriots of this country that they are, and treated as such. Unfortunately, sometimes, they are not.

I will be the first to admit that among their numbers are some that are none of the things I described. They are few in number, yet they are scattered in among the heroes. Part of the reason these unfit are embedded with the noble lies in the nature of the profession. Our military are professionals in conducting war on behalf of our nation's national security. That, by definition alone, will attract a bully, and maybe even the deranged, an example being the Soldier involved in the attack on Ft. Hood. Then there is the self governing system by which the military operates. From the governance of each Soldier being legally obligated to follow all orders from his superiors, unless they actually break laws, arises the first weapon that can be used against a Soldier by those who abuse power. Make no mistake, a few are attracted to military service by nothing more than the opportunity to have power over other human beings, and seldom do these individuals use their power in anything but conniving and wrangling for yet more power. They would "serve" for free, because their real currency is the "rush" they receive in wielding power. Depending upon what is at the moment being awarded with promotion, hence, attaining more power, they can actually accomplish good. They will set goals toward what ever is being recognized by top military as positive and desirable. This is fairly easy to recognize in an officer, and almost impossible to control. Worse case scenario, the entire Army, and in fact the country, not to mention an individual Soldier and their family, can be damaged or destroyed by either a single, or a series of decisions by these leaders.

As they are "promoted," they become the "promoters," ensuring the procreating of their own kind, and as I said, they can accomplish much, even win wars. Probably the most admired General of all times is George S. Patton. I have no personal knowledge of General Patton, but many have described him as "ruthless." Without a doubt he made a large contribution toward winning WWII. However, I suspect many could have formulated the plans to win WWII, and many could have been the inspiring leadership to execute the formulated plan. I find so much between the lines of his many famous quotes. To me, many of them ring as calculated "sound bites" of very clever power monger. As an example of what I think are famous quotes more closely related to who Patton was in his heart consider, "All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated." Then there is this quote, "Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood."

I recently came across the writing of a two star who was e
ndeavoring to school his troops in the worth of living the Seven Army Values. For those of you who are unfamiliar, those include, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. He did an "on the fly" poll among Soldiers, and found the most common response to be loyalty. He went on to extol the merits of all the answers and stated they were all of equal value. I disagree with that, for the following reason, I have seen Soldiers support a philosophy or concept, which even though it was negative in content and practice, their present leadership embraced. I have even seen a unspoken philosophy or concept that went against written policy and regulation of the United States Army prevail in a unit, because leadership expressed, even in only private, disdain for accepted policy. As a completely hypothetical example, say a one star general states in a planning meeting for family day, "whatever, lets just get the Kum ba yah out of the way." You might then hear from a colonel serving under that general, "Well I'm not looking for a Cadillac kind of Family Readiness Group, I had more in mind a Yugo."

By all written and stated policy and regulation, FRG is to be a "high priority." The Army's position is that family support is of the utmost importance... it wouldn't be in that unit, because loyalty to the man in charge of writing your OER, (Officer Evaluation Report, or something close to that,) might influence what that evaluation contained. A commander is only allotted so many "top blocks" to dole out, and a man who expressed by word or attitude,
"All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated." is probably going to have a unit full of sub-ordinates who emphasize their own disdain of all things Family Support related as being fluff without any real worth, and unworthy of effort. Anyone can figure out what kind of Family Support that unit would offer.

I think Patton considered himself superior in all areas to most men, I suspect all that he accomplished came from the desire to demonstrate the same to the rest of the world. Wha
t other kind of thought process spawns a statement such as, "Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood." I found no quotes concerning the price of war, for a nation, or a family in all the quotes I found made by General Patton. "Battle" to me isn't a competition, it is a struggle to defend good against evil, and should never be undertaken for any other reason. I, for one, believe that honor is the "essence of manhood." To me, duty is doing what is expected of you in any given situation by those setting up the rules and the content of the rules, honor is doing, at all cost, and by all that is within a man's ability, what is truly righteous and upright before God and man. In my observance, many a person, including myself has failed honor on behalf of duty. Loyalty represents to me an ever changing landscape of leadership with-in the Army from the lowest level NCO to the highest officer.

That brings me to why I have any right what-so-ever to comment or dare to criticize Army leadership in any way. I am the mother of a Soldier, the wife of a Soldier, my son-in-law is in Afghanistan, it would take too much time to type all the places and times he has deployed and been absent from his girls. One of my son-in-laws was blown off a vehicle he was refueling in Iraq in 2003, as he lay injured he was hit in the shoulder by sniper fire. I remember waiting at the end of the sidewalk as a child, and hiding my eyes thinking when I look up, I will see daddy's truck coming home from "drill." My father almost died of Malaria while serving in the Occupation Forces following WWII. My grand-father, eventually smothered to death, the mustard gas of WWI finally claiming him. My husband has been absent 22 months now from our home, I take exceptional pride in the above associations, ... exceptional pride, their value being unmeasurable to me.

As an American who considers myself a patriot, who daily endeavors to support every Soldier serving anywhere, and those who have gone before, I take even more pride in these exceptional men and women who have given so much. I not only take note, but take names, when it is brought to my attention that any one of them has been treated badly by anyone, including, "the Army." I owe them all... where would the nation be if the responsibility would be mine to defend it against our enemies? I am not possessed of what it takes mentally, physically, and emotionally to stand the wall. My protection falls to them, and I am not alone. If you are not one of the protectors, you are one of the protected. Never should a single Soldier ever fear reporting "issues" concerning service, and never should command bend to any personal agenda the handling of reporting. Never should the physical or emotional health, or claims of lack of health in either of those areas be treated as anything but sacred obligations of those in charge to hold as of highest priority, because if they are not, someone has little or no regard to the lives of Soldiers being offered up in "the competition."

I have not been able to sleep considering one young Soldier, his wife, and the rest of his family. My mind can imagine the embarrassment, the concern, the fear, the pain, because I have seen it up close too many times. His name is Spc. Jeff Hanks, of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Ft. Campbell may ring a tone of familiarity with you, they had a stand down because of the number of suicides at that base over a period of time, in the not so distant past. I have left numerous posts on their facebook page after researching the situation with this young man. It is the least I can do, as I am in debt that I cannot repay to he and his wife. I wrote a poem concerning my greatest fear for any Soldier experiencing what this Soldier and his family has, and I have a message for him, and any Soldier with any difficulty that threatens to overcome them. You aren't the first and you won't be the last to be treated in this manner by individuals in the Army, but, those individuals are just "employed" by the Army, they do not "belong" to that honorable organization. By the hundreds of thousands
, the true band of brothers stands beside you, and by the hundreds of millions, Americans stand beside you. Hoo-ah, for all that is honorable about the United States Army and those who proudly serve, and those of their families, who proudly and confidently stand behind them! This poem is dark intentionally, God help the man or woman who ever contributed to all the Soldiers depicted in these words, and their numbers are staggering!

UNDERSTAND

After the attack, I joined with the brave who heard the call,

To protect our country from an enemy determined to cause it to fall.

This duty my mind and heart, could completely understand.


Then with my brothers and sisters, I went to a foreign soil.

Together we followed every order, and endured each mission, as on we toiled.

The need for this work I still understand.


I came home, and visions returned of things no man should ever hold in sight.

Always now I must be vigilant and watch for a means of flight.

These things are very difficult for me to understand.


Sometimes my mind begins to falter, and I feel cold fear rise.

I am now someone my family and friends do not recognize.

Of this I have no ability to understand.


Finally, in shame and despair, I went to my commander.

Grasping for words to make this man hear, I could only stammer.

I longed for him to understand.


The expression and tone of the words I received in return,

Have dealt wounds and pain that cause my very soul to burn.

All efforts have failed to cause him to understand.


Since this confession, I know, though long I stood strong,

To my beloved band of brothers I will never again belong.

I have slowly and painfully come to understand.


Tonight in the solitude of this lonely room, I’ll make my last stand.

Summon courage and my life lay down, by my own hand.

For no longer do I have the desire to understand.