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Victor_c3

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Member since: Wed Aug 15, 2012, 02:17 PM
Number of posts: 2,749

About Me

I grew up hardcore Republican and conservative (although I never agreed with the religious portion of the party) and I even voted for Bush in 2000. (However, by 2004 I realized that was a mistake) I joined the Army in 1997, when I was 17 years old and my parents had to sign a waiver to get me in that young. I later went to college, obtained a degree in chemistry, and received a commission in the US Army where I served as an Infantry Officer from May 2002 until I was discharged in October 2007. While I was in the Army, I would consider myself your typical hardcore junior officer. I spent some time in Ranger School, did the typical stint at Airborne School, and I even had grandiose dreams giving it a shot at Special Forces selection. However, I deployed to Iraq as an Infantry Platoon Leader from Feb 2004 through Mar 2005. Seeing and being involved in combat as intimately as an Infantryman does really shook up a lot of my core beliefs. I could write an essay on this, but in short I now lean hard to the left with much of my political views.

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another aside

It's kind of funny, but you know you're messed up when you memorize the suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK, option 1)

Just curious, but when were you there?

You sound like an OIF I guy if I had to guess. I can't argue with you over the poor leadership at the top of the military during the early stages of the war (including planning).

I was there during OIF II (Feb 2004 - Mar 2005). I was an Infantry Platoon Leader with 2-2 IN BN/3 BDE/1 ID and my platoon was attached to the 82nd Engineer Battalion for the duration of the deployment. I personally didn't have issues with a lack of armored vehicles, but then again I had Bradley Fighting Vehicles equiped with reactive armor. The HMMWVs and 113s the engineers I was attached to had were a different story. Their HMMWVs all started out as unarmored, but they quickly welded a whole bunch of steel plates all over these things. I remember having to ride around in HMMWVs with my knees up to my chest because we had stashed sand bags all on the floor of the vehicles to help protect the occupants.

As far as leadership goes, I think a lot of it was hit or miss. I'd like to think that I was a good leader, but I'm obviously biased towards myself. Many of the SSGs and the Platoon Sergeant that worked under me were phenomenal and are exactly what I attribute my success to. Some of my fellow LTs were dirt bags. I was thrown out into sector for a 24 hour firefight under the command of a complete POS company commander (he was relieved the following day after the firefight), but there were many awesome company commanders out there as well. I loved my BDE commander (COL Dana J.H. Pittard) and my division commander (MG Batiste). In fact MG Batiste speaks out from time to time for votevets.org. If either of those guys were to run for president in the future, they'd get my vote. The biggest leadership issues I saw were at very top. The tippity top made some amazingly stupid decisions that impacted the war for its entire duration. Why the hell would you disband the Iraqi military and let them all go home with their weapons?

I don't think that "service" no longer being a core American value is the full reason why have low troop numbers, however I think I understand what you are trying to say and I do agree with you to a point. If anything, my experience in the war pushed service out of my "core values". I joined the army when I was 17 in 1997 (my parents had to sign a waiver) and I saw what we were doing in the Balkans and I believed that pointless wars like some in the past would no longer happen. I joined for the opportunities to help myself get ahead in life, but also because I thought that I would contribute something positive to the world. I received my commision in May '02, spent a while at Ft. Benning, then eventually made it to my unit just in time to deploy for OIF II. I never agreed with the premise of the war in Iraq from the get-go, but I obligated myself to our military and I was determined to bring as much good as I could to the Iraqi people in my sector. After my first series of firefights and after seeing the impact of my weapons on people (both combatants and non-combatants) I really started to feel ashamed of the war and what I was a part of.

The most upsetting experience for me wasn't even the most intense in terms of combat. I was escorting my company commander and 1SG to a town meeting and my 1SG's HMMWV was hit by an IED. My gunner identified who we thought was the trigger man and shot him. In another HMMWV, one of my SGTs got out and shot at someone else. After the handful of shots, we all dismounted and were working on recovering the vehicle that was hit by the IED. We were light on people as we were only escorting my CO and 1SG to a meeting so my 1SG, medic, a SAW gunner, and myself scoured the area to find the people that we shot. We found the "triggerman" still alive, but bleeding to death and just roling on the ground. I left my medic there with him my SAW gunner to begin first aid. I saw a group of 2x 20ish males and a 6 year old boy sitting on a log solemnly about 50 feet away. As I approached, I saw an 8 year old boy lying face down on the dirt. He was still alive, but not doing so good. The two guys were his uncle and the younger boy was his little brother. They were on their way to a wedding and the boy was even carying his little tuxedo all wrapped up in plastic to keep it clean. I did all I could, but I could have done a lot of things differently and offered more compassion in that situation. I don't know if the kid actually died or not, but we did get him on a helicopter extremely fast. He wasn't doing good at all. I still get flashes of the incident when I look at my two little girls and I think about how much I love them and I realize how devastated I'd be if something happened to them like what happened to the kid I found.

I can tell you that I didn't feel any sense of patriotism watching people die, picking up their parts, and stuffing them into body bags. I definintely dign't feel proud for my service or what I did by any measure. I hated the awards and decorations I received for my combat experience as it feels like it cheapens the whole thing. My parents and family are proud of me and my service, but I'm not. They weren't there and they have no idea what it is all about. It's easy to tell stories like this in a semi-anonymous fashion, but I'm scared shitless of telling my family things like this. The scary truth is, after a while, you kind of get turned on to violence. I find myself missing combat, holding a rifle, the danger, and everything else. If I could somehow go back to Iraq and to the war, I'd drop everything in a heart beat to get back. I wouldn't call myself suicidal, but I can totally understand veterans and their suicide dilemna as I've been through it myself. Comming back to the civilian world sucks and is impossible for some of us. I've been out of the war for about 8 years and I still find it is a central facet of my life. I just can't get away from it.

I can keep going on and on, but I kind of lost what my original message was supposed to be. I believe this is still worth posting, whatever the final message is. Anyways, thanks to anyone who is reading this and for listening to the ramblings of a veteran.

(As an aside, I'm currently receiving treatment for PTSD from the VA).

I wouldn't go that far

I know what you are trying to say, but that isn't exactly true. Yes, there probably aren't a lot of wealthy people serving but I'm pretty sure that there is a very healthy portion of the military that comes from the middle class.

As a former officer, I'd be willing to assert that almost all of the officer corps is solidly middle class in origins. As far as enlisted ranks goes, you probably have a higher portion of lower income people.

I loved the part in Michael Moore's movie "Farenheit 911" where he discusses the number of congress members who have a son serving in the military. I think in 2004, there was one member of congress who had a son who was serving in the military. It's easy to send people to war when you most likely never will have to know anyone who will have to directly deal with it.

Personally, I love the VA

However, your note is funny.

It's kind of like where I work. Everyone hates working for my organization and constantly complains about how bad of a place it is to work in a recent employee survey. But the funny thing is nobody leaves. Something like 2% of the employees who work here have been here for a year or less and turnover is almost non existant. If it sucks so much, why have you been working here for 20 years? Is it because nowhere else can you make the money you make here, have a low-stress job, and have the closest thing anyone has to absolute job security anymore?

The same with the VA.

Personally, I have nothing but good things to say about the VA. It is a big organization and it is easy to get lost in the system, but that happens with any excessively large organization. I fully believe that the care providers are sincere and really want the best for veterans like me. I show up a complete mental wreck (I have a lot of pretty severe PTSD issues) and they help me with every aspect of my life. I have relationship problems, a social worker helps me out with that. I lost my job, another person helps me find work and helps me write a resume. I'm going crazy bouncing off the walls and someone else will just sit and listen to me rant. When I'm having good days and I bring my kids by, everyone stops and to talk or play with them. The VA is full of good people and has provided me nothing but awesome care. They have done so much for my life.

I lived in Germany for a number of years where they have socialized medicine and I never heard anyone say anything negative about it. I know there is a lot of propaganda out there from the health insurance industry, but I don't how people can't see the numbers and realize that our healthcare system is crap. We pay more per capita on healthcare than anyone else in the world and have a lower life expectancy than most other industrialized nations. I just don't get it. Our for profit healthcare system obviously isn't working as well as it should.

Another thing that I find funny is look at how, relatively speaking, successful and strong the German economy has been in the last several years. They have things like socialized medicine, environmental controls, and fair labor practices - all things that conservatives claim kill the economy. They currently have an unemployment rate of 6.8% (if I recall correctly) and are the second most exporting country in the world after China.

agreed

I agree with everything you say and I don't believe that posing with dead people like they are dear is at all acceptable.

However, to be judged by a group of people who have no idea what war is like and what happens to a person's mind when they are directly involved is not fair to our Soldiers.

As Soldiers, we are/were expected to fight a war and kill when necessary. Everyon grows up with what I would say is a natural aversion to killing people. Once you find yourself in a situation when you've killed a person, it really throws everything into a "tizzie". I shot and killed people and was rewarded for it! What kind of mixed signal does that throw to a person? When it is alright to kill someone, posing with them like a deer or urinating on them becomes easy to do.

I completely understand where they are coming from.

You don't shoot and kill people that you like. A lot of the conditioning (both intentional and unintentional) makes you not want to like the people that you are fighting against. The second that you revere your enemy as a person like you, you'll find it hard to deal with combat - which is exactly what happened to me.

War sucks and coming home and trying to be normal afterwards is almost impossible for some of us, but that is the topic for another thread. These are just more reasons why war should be avoided at all costs.

I'm not so sure about that...

I might be wrong, but I don't think it was directly lowered by good ol' W. but by the pentagon guys who worked under him. Well, by virtue of position and being in charge of it all, that would make him responsible. I won't argue with that.

Geeze. I think this is the closest thing to sticking up for Jorge W. I've ever done. I probably shouldn't even post that comment, but then this sentence wouldn't make any sense!

-----

However, as a former military guy, I will say that the above statement about ignorant rednecks isn't always exactly the case. Yes, they are out there and I'm sure a certain minority of people do join so that they can commit state sanctioned murder. However, all officers have to have at least a 4 year degree and, hence, are somewhat educated and do lean a little more towards the middle/left than you might expect.

Most of the guys in the military have a heart of gold and joined because they thought they were doing a good thing. Most people (Soldiers) want to do the right thing and want to help their fellow man. Guys like me joined before September 11th because I saw what our Army was doing in Bosnia/Kosovo and I believed the Army was an instrument of good. I never immagined wars like the one I was a part of in Iraq could happen.

Having served in the Army, I have nothing bad to say about the organization itself. However, the way it has been used by our politicians and the people at the top is certainly less than admirable. The war absolutely sucked. But, if you're like me, and you can't stand killing and watching your buddies die, you better get the hell out. War is what the Army is all about.

Unfortunatley, the Army focuses on combat and "winning" military engagements. At all levels of training, combat and "violence of execution" are emphasized. Not things like nation building and respecting civilians. The biggest failure, in my opinion, on the ground in Iraq is the overemphasis of force protection over mission accomplishment and relationship building with the locals. If I was engaged or felt threatened, we shot who we thought was a threat (look at the countless stories of cars of non-combatants being fired on at impromtu traffic checkpoints).

Anyways, I'm rambling now and this has nothing to do with the original topic. I know I'm kind of biased with my thoughts and I have a hard time hearing anything negative about the Army. I can feel myself getting teary-eyed even thinking about it and I do usually over react and zero in on Army/war related threads. Just realize that I'm kind of "crazy" side of the fence and I'm probably over reacting. It just bothers me to hear an association with ignorant rednecks.

At the end of the day, I believe that we are on the same side here.

Something similar happened to me, but I went the other way

I voted Bush in 2000 when I was 20 years old. In 2004 I found myself in Iraq serving in the Army as an Infantry Platoon Leader and I was involved in a lot of violence over there (they don't put Infantry units in nice places). I did 13 months over there and it sure changed a lot of my mind. I went from moderate right (I agreed with most stances of the Republicans minus their religious baggage) to hard left on my thinking. The violence of war had (and continues to have) a profound impact on my beliefs. Instead of turning into a hardened killer like Rambo, I gained more of a "live and let live" attitude in life. I think the violence of combat, killing people, and losing Soldiers under my command made me a much kinder and understanding person. Maybe your family member had similar upsetting things happen to them and they just happened to turn to the rights on their beliefs?

I don't know. It's just a theory. War is very traumatic and definitely unsettled a lot of my core beliefs and I could understand it happening to someone else (even if they went the other way on their beliefs).

Yeah, you don't want to talk to a veteran of the recent wars about living conditions

I can't speak for Afghanistan, but even in 2004 in Iraq our living conditions on our FOBs were plush. We had electricity, airconditioning, satelite TV, internet access, beds with real matresses, and some awesome food. Haliburton may have been overcharging the government for the meals it provided, but the food was amazing. It was at least as good as standard garison chow that we were eating in the US or in Germany. In fact, I gained a lot of weight while I was deployed. All I did was eat, lift weights (and take lots of steroids), and go on patrol. Also, other than one issue with track pads for my Bradley Fighting Vehicles, I never had a problem with shortages of any kind as far as equipment, ammuniiton, etc went.

The Army really did a good job taking care of us. However, I guess you can do that when you're fighting the second most expensive war(s) in American history after WWII (when you adjust for inflation). Too bad that money couldn't be spent on something like healthcare or education instead. At least we'd have something to show for it other than a bunch of broken veterans like me.

Glad to hear that you are seeking help

I did a year in Iraq in 2004 and when I got back, I made it about a month before my wife made me see a psychologist. Many of the symptoms either went away or became easy to deal with them. I managed to get myself into a cushy job at Range Control in Grafenwoehr, Germany and I stayed there until I got out of the Army in October 2007.

Things started to get really bad for me when I got out of the Army. Being around Soldiers really helped me out a lot. I don't want to scare you, but don't plan on just getting out of the Army and it being easy. As much as some of the Army sucks, it's even worse when you get out and have to deal with the civilian world. Being around the Army and Soldiers really was a huge comfort for me.

Almost everything you mentioned sounded like me spot on - especially the forgetful part. I even get to points where I feel like I'm drunk and I know I haven't been drinking. I talk really slow, slurr my words, I can't move or walk fast, and my peripheral vision closes in and I feel like I'm looking at the world through a straw. Things like that come and go, but the one thing that constantly irritates me is my right hand just feels so out of place. Whenever I'm walking outside or in a large public place my hand just feels like it needs to be on the pistol grip of my M4.

Driving is an adventure. I find that I'm alrigt if someone is in front of me, but trying to focus on obeying the speed limit and staying in the right lane when nobody is in front of me sometimes is hard. I also sometimes forget that I'm stopped at a stop sign. It's kind of funny in a way. I get honked at all the time.

I have a lot of issues with relationships. My marriage is crap and sometimes I have a very hard time interacting with my two daughters (they are 2 and 4 years old). I get a lot of flashbacks (they usually last for a couple of seconds, but they really scare the crap out of me) and I have a lot of what they call "intrusive thougts". Even though the war was about 8 years ago for me, it is alive and stong in my head. Fortunately I'm not a violent person and when I get angry I close up, get really quiet, and never lash out. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have commited some sort of domestic violence (which obviously is never alright under any circumstances).

The most emberassing part is I'm a total emotional wreck. Things make me cry all the time and I can't control it. Like watching kid's cartoons with my daughter. Geeze. So much for turning into a hardened killer like Rambo after my combat experiences.

I've been diagnosed with PTSD and I've been receiving treatment from the VA since 2008. I've had a lot of issues with my previous job (I got out of the Army and managed to get a job working as a production manager for Amazon.com). I freaked out at work really bad and they suspended me for 5-6 weeks and then gave me a second chance. A few months later I freaked out again and I became unemployed. Now I work for the Federal Government and things are a lot better. I'm a chemist and my work is very slow paced and almost stress free. my boss an coworkers know that I'm a "crazy vet" and they are patient and are willing to pick up the slack when I can't. The head HR guy was an Infantryman in Vietnam (I was an Infantryman in Iraq) and he helps me out a lot too and keeps me out of trouble. I'm very lucky to be where I am. Otherwise, I'm sure I'd be given a 100% disability rating from the VA and living off of Social Security Disability.

Anyways, be sure to check in with your local VA hospital when you get out. The VA has been a tremendous help to me and they really do care.

Also, if you have a mental health specific issue and you want to talk to other veterans, check out http://vets.yuku.com. They have a pretty active forum.

Again, I'm glad that you are elready getting yourself some help. You need to stay on top of this.
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