Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Does A War Really End?

This forum is NOT about being for the war in Iraq or against the war in Iraq. This is about the fact that there IS a war in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) and there are CONSEQUENCES to that war--consequences for our service members, for their families, for our country. We believe the candidates should have to talk about how they plan to identify and deal with these consequences.

How do we help our military and veteran families receive the help they need emotionally, medically, and/or financially? What are our obligations and responsibilities to them as a nation once they have fulfilled their obligations and responsibilities to us?

What can and/or should we be doing to help our returning warriors successfully reintegrate into peacetime society?

These issues need to be a part of the national discourse about the war in Iraq because the war in Iraq does not end when a service member comes home.

We would like voters all over America to be mindful when selecting their nominee for President that his or her choice will have a significant impact on the lives and well-being of millions of service members, veterans, wounded warriors, and military families, including children.

This Forum can help all of us, military, veteran, and civilian alike, make the most informed choice.

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Why I have a bee in my bonnet...

Yes, I wrote that. I say things like "aren't you the cat's pajama's?" too. It's part of my charm.


I go on and on and on about this Presidential Forum on Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Military Families. I work tirelessly. I blog. I email people and call people and network and research and write and constantly look for another reason why America should care, the candidates should care, the networks should care...

I believe our service members do the work that needs to be done, that others don't want to do, that others don't want to think needs to be done... the dirty work of war that continues among men today (I use the word man in the general sense). Yet for this work, they are not adequately compensated, nor are they justly rewarded. In fact, we have evolved just enough as a species to feel shame for these acts of war but not enough to avoid engaging in these acts. So now our "warriors" are relegated to the status of "necessary evil" and all that is associated with that is easily demonized or quickly dismissed.

An example, I think, of how the military is marginalized and unappreciated by both parties:

First, that broke my heart.

Then it just pissed me off.

So I keep writing. And blogging. And work on helping others find their voices to share their stories. Because the military and veteran community should NOT be marginalized. It should not exist in the shadows of a great nation. It should not be a tool for abuse by a great nation nor should it be abused BY a great nation. It should be a reflection OF a great nation.

Men and women die EVERY DAY. Men and women face death or the fear of death or the possibility of death by virtue of their service to this country every day. By virtue of voluntary service that is undervalued, misused, and misunderstood. Service that should be appreciated b/c were it not for them volunteering, there WOULD be a draft.

Every day there are men, women, and children whose lives are irrevocably altered by virtue of physical and emotional separations and traumas that transcend the traditional definitions of "wounded" and "casualties".

Since 9/11, the military community has witnessed the devastation of thousands of lives that cannot be categorized by any word other than broken: broken hearts, broken homes, broken lives, broken spirits, broken dreams. Broken. And loss. Loss is another word that can describe what is experienced by thousands. Tremendous loss.

Every person on that helicopter lost something that they will never get back and every family member of every person on that helicopter lost someone or something.

Our nation doesn't mourn these losses. And we don't mend what is broken. We don't see what is broken. We don't talk about what is breaking.

That pisses me off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Presidential Forum...

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Can I just say that I LOVE Microsoft Publisher?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


A beautiful spirit (Kristin Van Huysen from the Wellsville Veterans Project) shared this with me. It is from the National Veterans Foundation.

FROM GODS TO GHOSTS by Salin Ebrahamian


They ride in the humvees or walk patrolling the streets in Iraq or Afghanistan. They have less than a second to determine if the man, the woman, the child standing in their path is a civilian or a human bomb. They have less than a second to decide between life or death… if they are wrong then they either kill an innocent civilian or their own fellow soldier. Having the power to hold the life of an individual in your hands is not a human quality, it is playing God. These soldiers, however, are not playing. This power over life and death does not come without its own heavy burden; they know all too well they are not Gods. They have to live with that decision for the rest of their mortal lives. These young men and women of our military, when in Iraq or Afghanistan, are given a mission, and they do what is necessary to complete the mission. They fight, some die to complete their mission. They kill to live; they kill so they won't bury another brother or sister. In the battlefield, when bullets and bombs are ripping through the air, there is no politics, there is no right or wrong- there is only one truth, for one to live another must die. They carry the power of life and death over there.

But what happens when they come home? What happens to the soldier when he takes off his uniform? When he is no longer in the battlefield, but in a lawful society? When nothing distinguishes the guard dog from the sheep and the wolves in our society? Nothing. Nothing happens. We, civilians, don't see them. When they come home, when they take off their uniform, we treat them like they don't exist. You don't want to see it; you don't want to admit it, because you don't want to feel the shame. It is the truth nonetheless. Ask any veteran or wounded soldier or any soldier who has just returned from battle, but taken the uniform off-ask them if they feel like they have been treated like second class citizens. Why can't they get access to proper mental health treatment to deal with battle stress? We go to therapy to deal with road rage. Why can't they get even a minimum wage employment easily so they won't have to sign up again to pay the bills? What was your last job? Theirs was protecting the Constitution of the US with their own blood or the blood of their brethren. Why do they have to pay for education? While we have only the stress of midterms to worry about they may have PTSD, survivor's guilt, friends still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, injuries and more. Besides it is the military of our past that has allowed us the freedom to have a choice to go to school, to think, to be innovative, to dream. Their reality which was a living nightmare has allowed us to dream and pursue our goals. Why can't we at least provide shelter and housing for our veterans? They are homeless today- the men who fought in the jungles of Vietnam and the desert of Iraq, but we complain about the rent.

We only acknowledge them when they are in uniform. Support the troops is lip service, because the real support they need is when they come home, when they become veterans. We can't help those we don't know exist. Open your eyes and honor and respect the veterans, as they deserve to be treated. Say thank you to a veteran. Fight for them when they come home, don't allow this second class treatment to continue. You would not be doing more than what you owe them…. You see they are in this position because they fought for you whilst in the military. They were Gods once, when in uniform. They are ghosts now, when dressed like you or I. The truth is they are neither. They are simply men and women, with the courage to face their fears, to fight for a cause bigger than themselves, to sacrifice all that we take for granted for the sake of honor. They are our humble heroes, the pillars of our nation. They should be treated no less. Respect the veterans… by acknowledging them.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Yesterday an Army Blackhawk crashed in Italy

killing 5 people (including the pilots).

My husband, Caynan, is a Blackhawk pilot.

We are using some of his leave to visit his family and travel because he is deploying to Iraq in early 2008.

Anyway, on this particular morning, we were at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara, California, and I had to go to the main lodging lobby to use the internet.

As I was checking my email, I hear CNN report, "helicopter crash in Italy" and I look up instinctively.

When my eyes met that television screen and my brain registered the now familiar Blackhawk form with its missing tail rotor and crumpled nose, I was instantaneously transported to a place that I religiously avoid: a place where his call to tell me he landed safely never comes, where my worst fear for him and us and our children is confirmed by strangers at the door that our 4 year old will probably answer before I do.

My chest tightens, my throat constricts, my eyes tear up. If I were more selfless (or a better liar), I would identify that feeling as empathy for another pilot's wife, but I think a more honest assessment would be fear, panic, shock… a sudden reminder of the possibility of becoming a widow under similar circumstances.

Caynan is going to Iraq in the spring and although I know it is going to be difficult when he deploys, the fear of being notified of HIS helicopter crashing already lives with us like an unwanted but determined houseguest who has nowhere else to go.

Since 9/11, a third of Blackhawk crashes have occurred in non-combat zones. Every time Caynan goes through his pre-flight checklist, I swallow a seed of anxiety that I refuse to let grow by sheer will alone.

That seed comes from images like this on CNN.

I could not wrap my mind around why that Blackhawk went down. When Caynan was in flight school, I helped him study all his emergency procedures: auto-rotational landings in the event of x, y, and z... but this looked like a clear day and the pilots found an even, open field. Yet they hit the ground with such incredible force. It was a really, really, really "hard landing." Why? I need it to make sense and it doesn't.*

Crashes are an occupational hazard, I know.

But it still hurts. And it is still scary. And it still makes me cry.

And today I cried for the pilots' wives too.

* The fact that there were survivors at all is a tremendous credit to the skills and ability of these pilots.

Please pray for the families of everyone on that helicopter. Please pray for all of our military families.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Bipartisan Presidential Debate at Fort Hood, TX

As much as individual presidential candidates want to talk about their health care plans or "outstanding" personal values, the fact remains that we are electing a WAR PRESIDENT. We are electing a president who will probably spend the bulk of his or her first term managing military conflicts and performing extensive foreign policy damage control. In fact, in 2008, the next President will inherit at least two wars and the costs of those wars, internally as well as internationally, will continue long after the last service member comes home.

As a result, Military Spouses for Change is inviting ALL the candidates to Fort Hood, Texas (Killeen), on February 1st, to talk EXCLUSIVELY about the U.S. military, veterans affairs, foreign policy, and America's wounded warriors (from ALL conflicts, including Vietnam).

Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the United States. There are almost 46,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood and more than 24,000 spouses. On any given day, almost a third of these soldiers are deployed to Iraq and every week at least two soldiers from Fort Hood (on average) are killed in Iraq. (I am 34 and I know more widows than my mother.)

This kind of event has never been done before and it needs to be done now. Not only because Americans on both side of the aisle need to be reminded (before Super Tuesday) that we are selecting the next Commander-in-Chief, but also because our service members and their families deserve to be addressed and heard by the people who wish to be selected for that position.

Not to mention, we also think this country’s large veteran community should know which candidates REALLY value the military and veteran votes (which all the candidates should care about, if not for moral reasons, then for practical reasons). There are approximately 1.4 million active duty service members in America and 1.2 million in the National Guard/Reserves. If you include the spouses, they come to a total of 4.1 million votes.

Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, 1 in 8 adults were veterans (26.4 million) in 2003. If we assume that at least half of those adults are married, then we have approximately 39 million vet couples giving us a total of almost 43 million American adults who are currently serving in the military, had served in the military, or are married to someone serving or who had served. That is not an insignificant number.

As an organization and as military spouses, clearly U.S. foreign policy is important to us. But the American public has an interest as well, not only for fiscal reasons (we have spent 447 billion dollars on the war in Iraq to date), but for national security reasons.

And what about the depletion of our states' national guard and reserve units. How are we going to replenish those units so that individual states can respond to natural disasters or, heaven forbid, another 9/11?

So far 1.5 million service members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. What are the candidates positions on the possibility of reinstating the draft if, for example, we become engaged with Iran before he or she enters office?

Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense has reported more than 64,000 wounded and 4,000 killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, has reported treating 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including 95,000 for mental health conditions.

Meanwhile, an estimated 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are expected to seek care from the VA within the next ten years, at a projected cost (by the CBO and CRS) of 7 to 9 BILLION dollars.

The suicide rate is the highest in almost 30 years and the propensity to serve is at a 20 year low. Consequently, the Army and Marine Corps are relying on reenlistment and recruiting bonuses that will cost nearly 2.5 billion dollars next year.

Iraq is the defining electoral issue of 2008. Nothing can be done domestically until we have settled our foreign affairs in such a way that does not require a large military presence in hostile countries.

Yet because Texas is not an early primary state, it does not warrant the attention of the Presidential candidates. Nonetheless, we cannot imagine an event more powerful than these candidates answering questions posed to them by the very people whose service and sacrifice allow forums such as these to exist.

Shouldn't we ascertain which candidates are the most qualified (from both parties) to lead our nation and our military prior to Super Tuesday? And shouldn't this be done in front of an audience of service members, veterans, wounded warriors, advocates, and their families?

* MSC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization created to educate military spouses about the political process and its impact on their lives (and the lives of those they love). Recently, MSC was in an article in the Military Times: Link.