November 2009 Archives


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Jonathan Van Meter spent some time trailing around after Hillary both in her office at the State Department, at the UN and on a long trip through multiple countries in Africa. The resulting article which includes an interview with Hillary is a good look at a fascinating and accomplished woman.

It's worth some time to read ... particularly for those Obama supporters who still struggle with what happened on the campaign trail. Actually for Clinton supporters too but I suspect they already know about it.

About what happened at Bagram

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You probably didn't hear about this story which happened at Bagram military base in Afghanistan. One of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote a letter that all should read:

I really have to chime in on this topic. I spent the better part of last year deployed to Afghanistan, where I was stationed at Bagram. Part of my job, actually the most important part, was to coordinate the transfer of my unit's fallen back home. This was something that I never, ever looked forward to, but it was a duty I took very seriously. Part of this duty was a departure ceremony as our fallen left Afghanistan for Dover. I don't think you can ever realize how powerful these ceremonies are until you've taken part in one.

At Bagram, all personnel not performing an essential task would line up on the main drive through Bagram. As the open backed HUMMV carrying the flagged draped transfer case slowly proceeded from the mortuary down the main drive to the airfield, everyone would come to attention and render a salute. There would be thousands of people, soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, lined up as for this. The fallen hero would be taken on to the tarmac and driven to an empty C-17 that had its ramp lowered, waiting to receive the transfer case. An honor guard and a cordon, as well as hundreds of servicemen and women, would be silently standing at attention as an honor guard carried the remains to the center of the aircraft. Whenever possible I would arrange for the honor guard and cordon to come from the fallen's team or platoon. Always, always, always, they wanted to be the ones to perform this service.

The last fallen hero ramp ceremony I put together still stings in my memory.

Ramadan had just ended, it was the first few weeks of autumn. A few kilometers from our base one of our police mentoring teams (PMT) was almost attacked by a vehicle bourne improvised explosive device (VBIED). I say almost as the attack was thwarted by one of our HUMMV drivers who took evasive action. Unfortunately, this resulted in the rollover of the HUMMV which caused the death of the driver. I was at the mortuary when the MEDEVAC helicopter brought this young man's broken body in to be prepared for the journey home.

The rest of his team were brought to Bagram as well. They were very adamant that they be the ones to escort the fallen brother to the C17. Although dirty and disheveled from their encounter, I agreed as I am certain their brother would have had it no other way. To a man, they wanted me to know one essential fact about him: he was Muslim. They insisted that he be sent home with a Muslim cleric presiding. We had one at Bagram, a major who was an Islamic chaplain - in fact I had dinner with this man just a few nights prior. We were able to grant the PMT's request.

I do not have the words to adequately describe the emotion in the night air on the tarmac. Under a crescent moon the fallen hero was carried onto the C17 by his team brothers, followed by the honor guard, the Commanding General and Command Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne, and of course the Muslim chaplain.

Not a lot more needs to be said.

You've got a lot to answer to God for, George W. Bush

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Tara McKelvey delves into why the Veterans Administration under George W. Bush had so much trouble getting help to returning soldiers who were suffering from PTSD. Turns the men in charge didn't think it was a real diagnosis but just something made up by psychologists and psychiatrists when what was really needed was deeper faith in God. So instead of making additional mental health resources available to our soldiers, they were referred to chaplains for a spiritual assessment and given a copy of The Purpose-Driven Life.

Oh yeah, that's going to help someone suffering from nightmares of blood and battle and explosions. The level of incompetency that was installed in all branches of our government by the Bush administration is criminal.

For awhile, I collected the news reports and background stories of soldiers who committed suicide after being unable to get mental health care of any sort from the VA. The devastation to them and to their families was and is horrifying. Now to read that Bush appointees thought that it was just a liberal scheme to make them look bad for getting the country into war is to no longer wonder, but know for certain fact, that the conservative wing of the Republican party has lost its capacity for reason and compassion.

Get ready, George Bush. I don't think God's going to be too lenient.

[via Sully]

Paging the VA

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It's not too often that I find myself wiping away tears as I read but that happened this morning when I read a post from ginmar, an American female vet. I'm not going to excerpt it. It's powerfully written and I'm willing to bet that it makes you pause in your day.

Go read But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Then think about what you can do to help the female vets in our midst, the ones who are being ignored. Ilona Meagher has some ideas for you.

As for the management of the VA, helloooooo. This is a MAJOR fail in your mission to take care of our soldiers.