Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Broken

I produce a radio show on WPVM called Veterans' Voices. It is a show by Veterans, about Veterans, service members and their family and friends. While listening to the moving Winter Soldier testimony to find a clip to air, I ran across the testimony of Perry O'Brien, a former Army medic who served in Afghanistan. He talked about the use of Afghani corpses for medical practice. This disturbed me greatly. My nephew also served as an Army medic in Afghanistan. I have tried to talk to him about his experiences in the war, and he only repeats Pentagon talking points; "We have to fight them there so we do not have to fight them here"..."We have to finish the job" and other similar words we have heard spew out of the mouths of this administration. Of all my sister's boys, I always seemed closer to him. He has wanted to be in the Army since he started walking, so when he signed up, I was not surprised.
I discussed O'Brien's statement about using the dead bodies of the Afghanistan people, without the consent of family members, with my sister. She says, "If he had done that, I would have known, he would have bragged about it". 'Bragged about it'! This does not sound like the loving, caring boy I once knew. What has the Army done to my favorite nephew?
He hides more from his mother than she thinks he does. He came home with shrapnel wounds, months since healed. He never told her about them, until she saw them. His brother Bob, my sister's 'Golden Child', wants to go to Iraq. He has been in the Navy for many years, an officer in the nuclear field with a new wife and baby. Jim argues with his brother, Bob about it. (Notice, they have grown up now, no longer Jimmy and Bobby) Jim has been there and knows about the horrors of war. He wants to protect his brother and his new family. (This sounds more like the Jimmy I knew) Their fates have yet to be determined. I wish I lived closer to him, so I could get to know him again and learn about his experiences.
This whole story reminds me of a guest we had on Veterans' Voices. He had been in Vietnam and returned a broken man. Then I believe it was either his cousin or brother that wanted to go enlist. He told him that he would rather run him over with his car than see him go to Vietnam.
War destroys many more lives than the body count indicates. The number reported by the Department of Defense, currently 4036, is almost insulting to the actual number. Count in those that have died months after being medically discharged from the military and those that have come home so broken spiritually that they take their own lives. These deserve to be counted. To not do so would be a dishonor.

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