Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Release His Name

Forgive me as this post is all over the place... but this is a significantly infuriating, at the same time heartbreaking, topic...
"I've contended for years that our moral argument against the Taliban is that they murder children; we (and the forces that stand for freedom in this world) instead work to make places safe for children to learn, grow, and be free. U.S. and Coalition forces have done such outstanding work for so many years in partnership with Afghans as they rebuild their country and their government. But then here it is. An Army Staff Sergeant has murdered Afghan children and women as they slept in their homes... and in a village that the U.S. claimed to be making safe for them. I am deeply and profoundly grieved and angry."
~ Kleio
Here "Kleio," one of my dearest friends, has captured my thoughts more succinctly than I could. So I've borrowed them.

Nine children were killed.

Incidents like this are shocking to the soul. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Luby's Cafeteria. Fort Hood. They are no more easily understood in war than they are here at home. We demand answers because we seek to understand what could possibly be the justification in which a person allows the darkness inside of them to overcome them. Part of us would like to believe it wasn't a choice, that he didn't choose to do this but then would that mean that it lurks in all of us and could, at some point, overtake our sanity? There are others that believe he chose this and that his soul was/is black and could/cannot be salvaged. In either case, we may never know.

And there's a lot of speculating as to what went wrong along the way; Was this triggered by PTSD? Was it the brain injury that news outlets seem to have thrown into the articles, you know, as an aside? Did he just crack? Could it have been prevented? Did he have a motive and if so, what was it?

Then, there are the larger questions; What impact will this have on our efforts in Afghanistan? How much more dangerous is it for our troops, now? How much has this damaged relations?

Many people have asked for my thoughts on this and what I can say, what I know, is that it's a tragedy. Beyond that, all I can offer is my limited knowledge and understanding of the Pashtun culture. And then there's this one request... Release his NAME.

When we enlist, we swear an oath;
I... do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
When we earn the honor to be called a US Army Soldier, we swear to uphold these values;
Loyalty - Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers.
Duty - Fulfill your obligations.
Respect - Treat people as they should be treated.
Selfless Service - Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
Honor - Live up to all the Army values.
Integrity - Do what’s right, legally and morally.
Personal Courage - Face fear, danger, or adversity [physical or moral].
When we become Noncommissioned Officers, we memorize this creed;
No one is more professional than I. I am a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Soldiers. As a noncommissioned officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "The Backbone of the Army". I am proud of the Corps of noncommissioned officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety.
Competence is my watchword. My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind—accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my Soldiers. I will strive to remain tactically and technically proficient. I am aware of my role as a noncommissioned officer. I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I know my Soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. I will communicate consistently with my Soldiers and never leave them uninformed. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment. 
Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my Soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, noncommissioned officers, leaders!
When we become warriors, we live by these words;
I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
When we engage in war/conflicts, we follow the rules of engagement as established in theater and the Geneva Conventions... 

No, based on what we know, I do not believe this man was my brother nor does he deserve to wear the rank and uniform of an US Army Soldier. I would prefer it if they would release his name so that we could stop referring to him as such.

**After much discussion on this topic with fellow veterans, I think it necessary to clarify: 

My post - isn't so much about a call for the act of releasing his name as much as it's a plea/request and an expression of my personal sensitivity to his actions. I take it very personally when someone shames the uniform that I wear, the family that I love, the country I'd die for. And I say this knowing that it's very possible that I know the alleged perpetrator.

His name identifies him as one person. An individual, non-representative of our military, our values, our beliefs. Honestly, they could call him "John Doe", for all I care.

I think the concerns noted by many for his family (it is believed that he is married with children) are noble and I respect the compassion expressed by my brothers & sisters but sadly, I believe it's just a matter of time. I hope that I am wrong. Even more telling is the fact that we apparently care more about his family than he was able to. I too, would like to believe that he cracked... and that this was not premeditated.

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