The Real Cost of the War

I’m pissed, real pissed, about how many American taxpayers’ dollars are going toward George Bush’s folly in Iraq (and Halliburton’s coffers), but I’m even more pissed about this:
As the United States nears the two-year mark in its military presence in Iraq still fighting a violent insurgency, it is also coming to grips with one of the products of war at home: a new generation of veterans, some of them scarred in ways seen and unseen. While military hospitals mend the physical wounds, the VA is attempting to focus its massive health and benefits bureaucracy on the long-term needs of combat veterans after they leave military service. Some suffer from wounds of flesh and bone, others of emotions and psyche.


Jesus Bocanegra was an Army infantry scout for units that pursued Saddam Hussein in his hometown of Tikrit. After he returned home to McAllen, Texas, it took him six months to find a job.

He was diagnosed with PTSD and is waiting for the VA to process his disability claim. He goes to the local Vet Center but is unable to relate to the Vietnam-era counselors.

"I had real bad flashbacks. I couldn't control them," Bocanegra, 23, says. "I saw the murder of children, women. It was just horrible for anyone to experience."

Bocanegra recalls calling in Apache helicopter strikes on a house by the Tigris River where he had seen crates of enemy ammunition carried in. When the gunfire ended, there was silence.

But then children's cries and screams drifted from the destroyed home, he says. "I didn't know there were kids there," he says. "Those screams are the most horrible thing you can hear."

At home in the Rio Grande Valley, on the Mexico border, he says young people have no concept of what he's experienced. His readjustment has been difficult: His friends threw a homecoming party for him, and he got arrested for drunken driving on the way home.

"The Army is the gateway to get away from poverty here," Bocanegra says. "You go to the Army and expect to be better off, but the best job you can get (back home) is flipping burgers. ... What am I supposed to do now? How are you going to live?"
There are stories of other soldiers, statistics about how many of these men and women come home psychological scarred. Vet Centers are meant to help them find jobs, but when, despite the promises made to make enlistment more attractive, you end up being one of the less fortunate who have been trained for little else than being a cog in an unstoppable war machine, with what are you left to put on a résumé?

As a wiser man than me once said, “As long as you can fight, you're cool. Once you're wounded or nuts, we don't wanna know ya. …[A]ll they want is cannon fodder and deck apes.” Support the Troops is an easy proposition when said troops are nameless, faceless masses sent off to fight a war in a faraway place that rarely gets covered on the nightly news. But when faced with an Army of One who’s returned home and isn’t quite sure how to go back to life like it used to be, all that support seems curiously AWOL.
"Once they come through the door, they usually come back," [Vet Center counselor Jeremy Harrison] says. "For them, this is the only chance to talk to somebody, because their families don't understand, their friends don't understand. That's the big thing. They can't talk to anyone. They can't relate to anyone."
Perhaps if our president, or any of the chickenhawks surrounding him, had been to war themselves, they might have known that this is why it makes a great fucking difference that there were no WMDs in Iraq, why war should only ever be our very last resort.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus