The military needs some love

William Herbe

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The U.S. military has faced some tough tasks and recently dealt with a very new version of tragedy and violence.  The horrific shootings at Fort Hood last month are one reason the U.S. military is in the questionable state it’s in right now. Sure, the massacre at the Texas base was stunning. How could one not question the reasoning and motives behind this horrific tragedy?

SO01-militaryMany Americans already have qualms with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Enlistment and recruitment are rising, but mostly because of the rise in unemployment. According to U.S. Army data, suicides in the U.S. Army are at a new high, which nearly doubles the U.S. national rate. And nearly one in five American soldiers deployed in Iraq suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Obviously, the military and civilians of this country having to fear war-like battles and practice vigilance with comrades on our soil is a nightmare. But there are several sad conversations one can have with regards to the upsetting state of our military.

•  Robert Bayer, former member of the CIA who served in the Middle East, said the military is broken or nearly broken after eight years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The stress we are putting on our soldiers in combat is frightening and sometimes permanently damaging.  The money we are spending on these wars and on the military is expanding our deficit. This is a very different war in terms of identifying the enemy. Many experts can’t even define what victory looks like.

•  The rates of the mental disabilities in these wars are troubling. The troops need more intensive care and support from inside the military.  Even the public support is low. If the support here on U.S. soil was heightened then it could raise morale and stability. Remember, after 9/11, there were men and women ready to quit their jobs and jump on the next flight out of town to fight for this country and seek vengeance on those who constructed and acted out such a horrendous plot?

•  The re-engagement in society when back as a civilian after war, is extremely difficult for veterans. They have to adapt back to the nine-to-five or deal with a working society daily, which is tough for those after three to four tours of duty. Therefore…

• The examination process of those planning to join should be more intense. With the rise in unemployment goes the rise in recruitment. This is especially scary because these future soldiers joining the ranks may not be serving for the right reasons. Joining the ranks simply to steer clear of fiscal instability is not very promising for the next soldier serving for honor. Even though many are physically fit, there are those that are not mentally equipped to take on the rigors of everyday combat and come back to the U.S. as a functioning and non-threatening member of society.  There must be more intense scrutiny of those who are unfit before they are admitted to the front lines and board the next plane to Iraq and Afghanistan.

• The level of support is sad. This is a bit repetitive, but worth revisiting because of the absence of respect and support by the general public. As retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore said in an interview on CNN, everyone is playing football and clubbing, minding their business and having fun. And if you don’t have ‘skin in the game’ then you don’t have to care or think about those who are falling everyday in these conflicts.

It’s like there isn’t even a war. It’s the military’s wars, not the nation’s, and that is a serious problem for these troops who are sacrificing their lives everyday to keep our home turf and borders safe.
The carefree state of our nation toward the military is concerning. I accept my own rash finger pointing. I used to cry foul on those who were supporting and fighting wars that are arguably unjust and unwinnable.  But, with the celebration of Veterans Day last month, I realized my mistake and raised my hand in salute of our brave heroes.

The respect and honor that should celebrate the active and fallen should arrive naturally and not as an afterthought or reaction to the events at Ft. Hood.

But, there must be the question of what we are doing and the strategy for these wars in the Middle East that continue to stir debate and bring body bags back home. However, the challenge and disagreement that Americans have with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars should never be directed at our military, but our president, Congress and the policies of this nation.

In any case, I hope that experts, strategists and the leaders of our nation can figure out ways to improve the current state of our military before it is broken beyond repair.