"It's Vietnam. That's what it is."

Those were the words spoken to me by a newly returned Iraq veteran today.  I won't divulge his name because I wasn't interviewing him for a blog, he was a new client of mine.  Then he told me that when he finally got home, at a Dallas airport, an older woman had walked up to him and called him a "baby killer" and walked away.

I told him that was just wrong of her.  Just because some soldiers had done some things in Iraq they shouldn't have, doesn't mean she should be calling all soldiers stuff like that.  That's death by association.

What he told me next I'll never forget. God help him. God help the Iraqis. God help us all.

It started off with me being a half hour early to our meeting.  He wasn't there yet so I called him to let him know I was running early if he wanted to meet me right away. He apologized. He did a lot of that today. I don't know why. I told him no worries, I was the one who was early, I'd just eat lunch and no hurry. He apologized again. I thought that was odd.

Then, when we met he apologized some more for the mess he was in. I told him that was why I was there, to fix this mess. No mess, no me, that's what I was there for. I don't want to delve into his personal details, so I'll leave it at that. Again he apologized.

It was at that point he mentioned that he'd just gotten back from Iraq. He'd spent the last week with his two year old he hadn't seen in a year. He repeated that he'd just gotten back from Iraq. He was tense. I sensed he had something more to say so I asked, "What's it like there?"

A blind man could feel the anguish. Now it was my turn to apologize. Before he even responded I cut in, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked that."

"He said it was alright. He had to learn to deal with it." It was like he was repeating what he'd been told. Learn to deal with it. That's when he told me:

"It's Vietnam. That's what it is."

I told him I was sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up. I wanted to steer the conversation back to what I was there for. I regretted digging into his open wound like that. I mentally cursed myself. Stupidest thing I could have asked!

But he went on.

"When I got home, it was in Dallas, an older woman came up to me and called me a 'baby killer'."

So many things flashed through me. Outrage. Anger that an anti-war protestor could be so STUPID. Colder anger at the realization that it probably wasn't an anti-war protestor, it was probably some CIA or Karl Rove plant, sent there to say exactly the worst thing possible when our boys got back so that no matter how pissed off they felt at the conservatives for botching the war, they'd feel totally alienated by the left for spitting in their faces when they got home.

I knew that the odds were it HAD to be a Rovian gimmick.

But you can't explain that to a very young man just back from war. Especially when you're there to help him with something else entirely. Especially not when he's a complete stranger. So I said what I could think of in that split second. I went with the outrage.

"That's not right. She had no right to say that. Just because some soldiers did some things wrong doesn't mean she can label all of you guys. That's just death by association."

And that's when the dam burst and the pain spilled out. That's when he told me the horrible truth, "I'm sorry if some Iraqi kids got killed but it was them or me. I wasn't going to die there. I was going to get back home.  I had a wife and kid to get home to."

Agitated, he apologized again, got up and excused himself for a minute.

And the irony hit me so hard I could feel it. It was palpable. You see, I was there to fix the mess left by his wife when she left him and took his kid. This young man just wanted to live so he could get back home to his family and when he finally does, he loses them. At least she had the class to not leave until he got back.  Or maybe he was so messed up when he got home that she'd left him for other reasons. It wasn't my concern. All that really mattered was that she and the baby had given him something to live for. Something to get himself back home for at all costs. They'd done that much.

So he'd killed Iraqi children. Who could blame him? It was kill or be killed.  He chose to live. That's what a soldier is supposed to do. As Patton once said, "You're not here to die for your country. You're here to make the other poor bastard die for his!"

Tell that to the mothers of the Iraqi children that died and are dying daily. They didn't volunteer for that war.

He may have volunteered, but did he really realize he was volunteering for that? Of course not. Who of us can condemn him when we weren't there? I only hope he can one day forgive himself.

When he got back I just smiled and acted like everything was fine. He was a very nice young man who kept on apologizing for things that were not his fault. Every other sentence began with "I'm sorry." I don't think he has anything to feel sorry for. I'm a very good judge of people and this young man may have done things in Iraq that were terrible but he wasn't one of those types that have some sort of macho attitude or one of the racist "kill the ahabs" type. He struck me as a good person who got put in a terrible place and had to do terrible things to survive. And I could see it was there, under his skin, eating at him.

Later that day, as I left him to go home, I cried for him.  I don't generally shed tears. Not even in extreme physical pain. Not even when I was a child.  But I cried for him after I left.

So much tragedy. So much pain. All because of a pack of lies by an administration filled with chickenhawks who'd do anything to line their pockets. We have to get the men who sent this young man to war. This time, they can't be allowed to escape justice.

Excuse my language, but fuck bipartisanship!

< Updated: Citizens Group Needs Help With Recount Effort | Enough! >
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Thanks Pen for sharing this, painful as it is to even hear of it. There must be many individuals like your client, and we're just beginning to realize it. He sounds like a case of PTSD.

Anyone who compares Iraq to Vietnam is using shorthand for: it's a hopeless cause, it's based on lies, it's tearing both countries apart, and we shouldn't be there.

by dinazina on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 03:46:02 AM PST

compromising with criminals and fascists who've created an enormous mess,

and they did it with direct or indirect assistance of a fucking lame ass 'opposition',

and now people are supposed to go half way to lunacy or they aren't cooperative.

IF our Dems cooperate with these bastards, is it cuz

they are almost as bad? OR

they are too fucking incompetent to change the rules, OR

they are too fucking incompentent to win at the rules

... wait ... never mind

I've been saying the above on blogs for 2 years now.



by rmdSeaBos on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 09:13:45 PM PST

Pen, thank you so much for sharing your interaction.  I would have posted sooner, but have been off the net.  Lietta, you comments are always "spot on".

Once we have become aware of the unique wounds of war that every service member experiences, all citizens should find ways to support them.  Currently, with the change of majorities in both houses, vet friendly legislation will be reintroduced into Congress.  Mandatory full funding for the VA, the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights, additional funding for PSTD and other legislation will be introduced, debated and voted upon in the next year.

I will be keeping readers of this site informed when YOU can pick up the phone and lobby your Congressperson or Senators to pass legislation that will actually show our love and support for our troops.

Thanks again Pen for raising our awareness.

by JulieTackett on Tue Dec 12, 2006 at 06:48:45 AM PST

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