Everyone celebrates on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. They post about how much they value the men and women who risk their lives to protect the country. People used to tell me all the time that I should be so proud of my dad, and that I was so strong for going through his constant deployments. But only on those days. Every other day of the year, we can get fucked. You spend years, sometimes your entire life, like I did, living like this. Then maybe your family member gets out. Maybe they don’t get out, maybe you have to figure out how to come to terms with getting a bodybag sent back to you instead of your family. My dad ended up with sleeplessness, back pains, knee pains, the cartilage in one of his ankles is gone, PTSD. The VA doesn’t dispute that it’s real, or service connected, they dispute that he deserves an extension of benefits because of it. My family is destroyed. For years I blamed myself. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t because of anything *I* did, the Army made him this way. 5 tours in Iraq. 2 in Korea. 7 in Bosnia. I didn’t see my dad for two years after I was born. And I talk to other kids like me, who grew up in this hell, and everyone is dealing with the same problem. What happened to our parents, because they never came home. Either they came home in a bodybag, or the person that came home is different. And they have to go back, and fight another battle, but this time the battle isn’t in a desert, or a foxhole. It’s fought in the VA offices and hospitals, just to try and get their problems treated. Just to try and get compensation for the problems that followed them home.
And then, if we weren’t , and it proves to me how little we matter to anyone. No one gives a fuck. Two days out the year, break out the #VeteransDay and #LestWeForget, and then the other 363 days of the year, everyone forgets until they can get a couple likes and a dopamine rush from their hollow sentiment. The politicians are the worst. In 2 months, this orange asshole will get behind a podium, probably outside a military base, and wax poetic about how much he loves our troops, and he’s the best thing to happen to them in years. Democrats will do the same. And then nothing will happen. I remember hearing about the campaign to get Joint Base Andrews a new CDC. NINE YEARS AGO. I remember going with my family to spend time with some of the people we knew there from when we lived in Maryland. I remember we were supposed to talk to Members of Congress. I remember being so excited that I was going to talk to some of the people that run the country. They didn’t show up. I guess that’s the best way to describe how much we matter to the people in charge. To everyone, really.
“A hero of war
Is that all they see?
Just medals and scars
So damn proud of me”
And then we hear the news that the war in Afghanistan will continue. Two thousand, four hundred, and nineteen soldiers have been killed. Nineteen thousand, nine hundred, and fifty have been wounded. Three thousand, nine hundred and thirty-seven contractors have been killed. More than Fifteen thousand have been wounded. In 2017, we added 3000 more troops to those already deployed in Afghanistan. Now there are 14,000 American soldiers there. A country broken, divided, destroyed. What is left for us to do? The Taliban thrives because we’ve destroyed everything else. We drop thousands of bombs, kill thousands of innocent civilians, and then in a cruel prank, our leaders organize peace talks, and then cancel them every-time. We claim to want to fix the region. We changed the name of the operation from Enduring Freedom to Freedom’s Sentinel. But still the fight continues. Will we wake up in 2021 to the news that the Afghanistan war has finished it’s second decade and begun its third? Almost certainly. In 2031, will we still be at war? It seems likely. At that point, will it just be a factoid in the history books? “Fun Fact: The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 30 years!” It wont be fun for military families. I’ll still sit and talk with kids whose mom or dad or sibling is overseas about how to cope. I’ll still talk to spouses or families about getting the kids in therapy to work through the problems that that stress causes. Politicians will still not listen to us. We’ll still be ignored. Except for those two special days where everyone feels good about themselves and supports the troops. But only as long as “supporting the troops” means sending them to die in a foreign country for no reason. A pointless war. An exercise in our own arrogance. An unwinnable battle, in a place we’ve already destroyed.
“They send our daughters and our sons to deserts under burning suns.
A sacrificial slaughtering to fill the pockets of the weak.”
Politicians expect us to be silent about these topics. “You’re damaging readiness. Impeding recruiting. Hurting morale.” Whatever bullshit excuse to shut us up so that they don’t have to deal with the hard problems. So that when they can’t fund a dumb fucking wall, they can look at the fund for a new middle school for military kids. Or a child development center for those same kids. Or a new range for the troops to, I don’t know, FUCKING TRAIN. That is what damages morale. That is was impedes recruitment. That is what damages readiness, not me talking about it. So many soldiers are realizing that if they want to start a family, they need to leave when their contract ends. Because the government doesn’t give a flying fuck about your kids. Can they lift an M4? No, why should the government care? It’s an open secret on base now. You can’t have life in the military. But if you say it, you get called into a meeting with your CO. Or your parent or sibling or spouse does. And they tell you to stop, that you can’t talk about this anymore. But I won’t stop. I’ve had to sit across a table with too many widows. Too many kids who lost a parent. And I’ve had to help them figure out where to go from there. I’ve heard too many stories of one of those people committing suicide.
“I’ve seen the eyes of the widows left behind
I’ve seen the child of a fallen man
And never once did our leaders apologize
For battles they began
I can’t look away
Or pretend not to see
And so I stay”
Soon I’ll be driving down the road, and I’ll see a yellow ribbon magnet on the back of someone’s car. It’ll probably say something like “Support The Troops”. I used to be so proud to see those ribbons, that my dad gave up so much of his life to protect the country. I felt proud when people told me that by being strong, I was making it easier for my dad to do his job. But it’s meaningless to me now. Just hollow words and fake sentiment.
“A folded flag, a purple heart
A family all but torn a part
They fought with courage to preserve
Not our way of life but yours.
So carry on, just walk away.
How many more sent to their graves?”