Suffer the Little Children

Posted: August 11, 2014 in General
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I do not carry many scars from my time in the Army.  Physically, I have worn out some parts that probably should have lasted at least another 10 years or so and have more than my share of aches and pains relative to the average 40-something.  I have done pretty well psychologically given some of the horrific things the last 13 years have brought about.  I, like many of my brothers and sisters have seen the horrors war can bring unto the world, in general, I have been able to move beyond them and always continued on.

My exposure has made me fairly sensitive in two areas.  I have a very hard time with memorials for my fallen comrades and it truly pains me to see the suffering of little children.  There have been times when the two of those have been intertwined and I can honestly say that it has taken all I have to get through them and affected me beyond the ceremonies.

I was not always this way, it may well be that this is my trauma that I have to bear for volunteering.  Every one of us who has served has their own demons, even if they show no outward signs.  The violence affects everyone in some way.  I know why I have such a hard time with memorials; I simply have been a participant in honoring the fallen so many times that I just cannot help it.  There was a stretch for two years in Iraq that I worked as the task force Commanders communications Sergeant and not a week went by when we were deployed that we did not attend a memorial service, in some week in ’07 and ’08 there were multiples that we attended or the Commander and CSM were part of the official party and spoke to the gathered.  I am in no way a religious person but Amazing Grace has a physical impact on me to this day, whether I knew those being memorialized or not.  I love the military traditions in honoring the fallen and I will never turn away from it, they, their comrades and especially their families deserve every ounce of respect and to feel the emotion of all those who attend.

I have never taken kindly to violence towards children.  I do not mean seeing a child getting a crack or two across the ass, I mean the outright physical and emotional trauma delivered against a child that can only be construed as abuse, as well as their suffering from going without when the capacity for them to be provided the most basic of sustainment is readily available to them, should they be allowed to receive it.  I was never truly affected by children until I went to war.  I grew up seeing the bearded dude in the Feed the Children commercials, read about the drought and the starving children in Ethiopia, saw news footage of the warlords stealing the UN supplies right out of the hungry hands of children in Somolia, but none of that ever affected me until I saw it first hand.

On my first trip to Afghanistan I was privileged to support an ODA that had a medic who set up a clinic for the locals in the Asadabad area.  Each day he had the sick, lame and maimed come to the clinic and seek what aid he could give them.  I was standing on the wall in Bagram when I witnessed children crossing a field and one of them disappeared because that field was littered with mines left behind by the Russians and the child had strayed off to pick up their toy that had fallen out of their hands.  I saw countless children maimed and missing limbs because of the left behind detritus of war, but it was not until I went to Iraq in 2004 that I would see something happen to a child that took a very, very long time to get over.

I was driving in a convoy from Mosul to Kirkuk and we had just left Mosul.  We were no more than a mile down the road heading towards town when on the other side of the road a group of children were gathered, waving and cheering at us.  One child, more exuberant than the rest ran towards the road and entered without looking when he was hit by a taxi at a high rate of speed.  We were not able to stop, I am certain there was nothing we could do if we had, but there were many nights on that trip, and many more since then that I have seen that little boy’s body flying through the air and what I assumed was his father crying out and falling over him in tears as we drove by.  At that point, in that location we were the saviors of those people and as I was driving my vehicle by those excited kids one of them died.

Between Iraq and Afghanistan I have seen all manner of evil inflicted on children.  Much of it done by the Taliban and AQ, but I have also seen children turn, right before my very eyes into what their relatives were as they lay crying over their bodies.  No matter how righteous the cause, or how evil the target is, when you waste someone in front of their children, the children will become what you have been fighting.  We have killed some truly evil people, people that have perpetrated the most heinous of crimes against my comrades as well as the people they claim they are “saving”.  I often wonder how many times I have witnessed the birth of a horror that will come into being during my children’s lifetime.  I have not one ounce of regret for any of the bad guys (or even gals) that have fallen by our hands, I have witnessed too much to ever believe that they would not do the same to me if given the chance.

All the suffering children in the news lately has pained me.  First we had the children from Central American countries and Mexico on our southern border who were just trying to get away from the violence of their home countries.  Children whose parents are not even trying to get in our borders but want the opportunity for a better life for their children, because without it they will either die by the time they are teenagers or become part of the cycle of violence that some of our own country’s policies have helped perpetuate for decades.  Even in this land of plenty we have a loud and vocal group who would deny CHILDREN the safety and sanctity that we espouse as a hallmark of our own immigrant populace to the rest of the world.  Today, it is little children in Northern Iraq, a country I had hoped we could leave behind when we declared hostilities over in 2011, who are the targets of the next breed of evil, ISIL.  The Yazidi minority are being attacked and run out of their homes along with Kurds and Shia by a terrorist organization who has spanned the borders of Syria and Iraq in attempt to bring forth their Sunni caliphate.  They are so bad that even other Sunni tribes within Iraq want nothing to do with them are at least defending their territory in replace of a strong response by the Iraqi military, a military we trained and equipped well.  I guess that goes to show that no matter how well you train and equip an army, they are no good without a cohesive government, even within their own borders.

All this negative effect has brought about some positive personal growth.  I truly appreciate my children, even the teenager.  I am not ashamed to say that watching my daughter in her most recent dance recital made my eyes a little more than cloudy.  Watching her perform was one of the most joyous things I have been able to witness and I look forward to her growth within her art or following her on whatever path she takes as she grows.  I look forward to seeing my son graduate next year and I hope one day he understands that it is not disappointment that I feel with his under-achievement in academics, it is simply a desire to see him succeed at whatever life throws at him.  I love when I am out and see an infant or toddler laughing and raising hell, it is a moment I can truly appreciate even from a distance.  That is what all children should experience and I have seen too many of them who have pain in their lives.

We wage war so that the world can be a better place.  It is the children who inherit our successes and unfortunately, our mistakes as well.  We would do well to teach them to learn from our mistakes rather than repeat them.  This post started because I was watching a video earlier of the humanitarian flights taking place in Iraq right now and of the many little children who are being loaded into too few helicopters to get them to safety from the top of Mount Sinjar.  It made me think of that little Iraqi boy all those years ago in Mosul.  We all have our demons and scars.

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