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Victor_c3

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Member since: Wed Aug 15, 2012, 02:17 PM
Number of posts: 1,359

About Me

I grew up hardcore Republican and conservative (although I never agreed with the religious portion of the party) and I even voted for Bush in 2000. (However, by 2004 I realized that was a mistake) I joined the Army in 1997, when I was 17 years old and my parents had to sign a waiver to get me in that young. I later went to college, obtained a degree in chemistry, and received a commission in the US Army where I served as an Infantry Officer from May 2002 until I was discharged in October 2007. While I was in the Army, I would consider myself your typical hardcore junior officer. I spent some time in Ranger School, did the typical stint at Airborne School, and I even had grandiose dreams giving it a shot at Special Forces selection. However, I deployed to Iraq as an Infantry Platoon Leader from Feb 2004 through Mar 2005. Seeing and being involved in combat as intimately as an Infantryman does really shook up a lot of my core beliefs. I could write an essay on this, but in short I now lean hard to the left with much of my political views.

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A lot of it has to do with family, culture, and the section of society some of these guys come from

I was born in 1980 and I grew up in a family that leaned right. I had no relation with anyone who actually served in a post WWII war in an Infantry function. My one grandfather was a WWII Infantryman, my other grandfather was a typist/clerk assigned to a unit in Japan during the Korean war, and my father narrowly missed being drafted to Vietnam based on his birth date.

I grew up watching and idolizing G.I. Joe (the real American hero) and I saw conflicts such as Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia/Kosovo as justified use of our military and as proof that our military was there to be used by our leaders as a force to spread freedom, opportunity, and democracy to the world. Our military might was used to stop genocide and to free the oppressed. Hell, I idolized the Green Berets whose motto is "De oppresso libre" or liberator of the oppressed.

I joined the Army in 1997, received an Army ROTC scholarship in 1998, and graduated college in 2002 and voluntarily sought an assignment as an Infantry Officer in the Army. Afghanistan, in my mind and at the time, was completely justified. I never dreamed that we would enter a war like we did in Iraq. I was finishing up my training at Fort Benning, GA in March 2003 when the war in Iraq started. Even at the time I thought the war was stupid and I had no idea why we went there. I never bought the arguments from bush (even though I supported him and even voted for him in 2000). I had no idea that I'd find myself in Iraq in February 2004 serving as an Infantry Platoon Leader.

Even though I never believed in the war and never bought the rhetoric, I was going to do my best to "do the right thing" and to treat everyone with respect of dignity. I was there to help make the country a better place. I wanted to work with the Iraqi people and I truly wanted them to live in a better country.

I was brainwashed by my upbringing before the Army even got a hold of me. The only brainwashing the Army did to me was to make it easy for me kill someone.

If you are interested in learning about this, read the book On Killing written by Dave Grossman. To give a four sentence summary, data gathered from WWII and wars prior indicate that only %15-20 of people who have actually seen an enemy in combat could bring themselves to kill that person. Upon realizing that statistic, the Army instituted a variety of techniques to train people to be more willing to kill. By Vietnam, data indicated that 95% of Soldiers who saw and enemy were able to and willing to kill them. As a result of this, we see many more vets suffering mental health issues after war now than we have in previous wars.

I would have used these photos...








Oh wait a second. The last one is a picture of me. 1st Lieutenant Glitter-pants, Infantry Platoon Leader extraordinaire while I was conducting a sweep through a farm field in Iraq in 2004. I was 24, but I sure had a baby face (and I still do 9 years later).

I'm getting off on a tangent here, but looking at pictures of the young guys in Iraq and Afghanistan really makes me think about the Kurt Vonnegut book Slaughterhouse 5 (or The Children's Crusade).

Damn, I love Kurt Vonnegut. It is a shame that I never had a chance to meet and talk to him in real life. If I could meet anyone in history, he would be on the top of my list.

I used to do roofs all the time when I was in college.

I loved it. I used to work for a small time general contractor during my summer breaks for about 4 years. If money wasn't an object, I'd still be doing that job. I loved digging holes, driving around a piece of shit job truck, slugging bundles of shingles up a ladder all day, moving piles of cinder blocks from one side of a jobsite to the other, and doing the bidding of my severely overweight boss.

The shortest time I ever held a job was 1 year and 10 months. It was hell. I was working for Amazon.com as a production manager and it totally destroyed my life. The only reason I hung on so long was because I had a new family and a new house and I needed the money. I just got out of the Army and I figured that I would give the corporate job world a shot. They paid me VERY well, but the job sucked the life out of me and the stress severely aggravated my PTSD issues. I got suspended for 5 or 6 weeks after I freaked out a work really bad. When I returned to the job I lasted a few more months before freaking out again and then I lost my job.

I would walk from the front to the back of my production line at Amazon and suddenly find myself on a dismounted Infantry patrol in Iraq. I could feel the heat of the air, the weight of my body armor, and the rifle in my hands. I'd get all light headed and feel like I was completely disorientated and drunk, start shaking and stuttering, and crying uncontrollably. It was awful and I completely scared the shit out of the people where I worked.

Now I work as a chemist for the federal government and I love it. I kind of bumble around the lab all day confused and in a half-daze. As long as I get the priority work in our lab done right away, I can take my time doing everything else and work at my own pace. I'm still a freak and I'm still completely crazy, but with this job I can hide out a little bit better when I need to get away from everything and my coworkers are very understanding when I start rambling on about something that happened to me almost 10 years ago.

The waste in war sickens me too

I read something a while back stating that 5% of all people on our planet who died between 1900-1999 died as a result of war.

I love your comment at the end of your post

It is just like the reasoning for tallying and publishing the number of civilian casualties in Iraq.

This should be front and center on the homepage of DU. It is a shame an article like this is buried in the veterans section. You post a lot of great articles and it is sad that most of them hardly get any visibility.

Thanks for your time and effort

That wasn't what I joined to fight for, though that is what it seemed like it ended up being about

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I believed the stuff that was fed to me that the American military fights for freedom and to make the world a better and more equal place for all.

I was 11 during the first gulf war and I was 15 in 1995 when the Dayton Peace Accord was signed and NATO sent its operation into the Balkans to unscrew the failed UN operation there. During my much younger years I watched and played a hell of a lot of G.I. Joe which, in hindsight, probably impacted me more than I thought. I hung onto the words thrown by the Green Berets as their motto "de oppresso libre" or liberator of the oppressed and I believed that we had learned our lessons from entangling ourselves in a war like Vietnam. I truly believed that our military was a force for good and would only be used to that end. I wanted to join to make the world a better place.

I was a fat kid and a nerd in my youth (I'm still a nerd, but I've come to realize that being a nerd isn't a detriment). When I turned 15 I got into weight lifting and even started to compete a little bit. Although I never had any aptitude or interest in sports like helmet touch or ball-pass, I realized that I could push my body and endure a certain amount of pain. I may not be the strongest or the fastest, but I could always endure more pain and just drive myself further than my peers.

I joined the Army when I was 17 and I went to basic training between my junior and senior year of high school. My parents had to sign a waiver to let me do this at my age. Granted, I didn't do "real" basic training with the grunts at Fort Benning, GA like I had hoped to, but I went to Fort Leanardwood, MO and, after completing basic training, I spent my senior year of high school in the Army Reserves. I had a blast at basic training and I loved the Army and the people I was with. I was mildly disappointed with how easy basic training was and I wanted to do more.

During my senior year of high school, I applied for and received and Army ROTC scholarship. Since I would be "double dipping" if I remained in the Reserves and, due to my college schedule I wouldn't be able to attend my AIT (job training) the following summer as was stipulated by my contract, I was discharged from the Reserves and thrown into a track that would put me into Active Duty as an officer when I completed college.

In college I continued to drink the koolaide and I continued to fall more in love with the military. Due to our proximity to Fort Drum, a lot of guys who were in my ROTC program were former enlisted people on ROTC scholarships. I hung out with a group of guys who were former enlisted Infantrymen. One used to be a Drill Sergeant and two spent some time in the Ranger Regiment and were all "tabbed out". I was one of the "PT studs" in my ROTC group and I actively participated in a competition they had called "Ranger Challenge" where they put a squad sized team together from all colleges offering ROTC and competed against eachother in various military competencies (like calling for artillery fire, first aid procedures, shooting, physical fitness test, land navigation with a compass, obstacle courses, forced march, etc). The team that I was a part of finished 3rd out of roughly 270 schools). I was in love with the Army and I wanted nothing more than to hurry up and get active duty and to serve as an Infantry Officer. I had grandiose ideas of going to Ranger School and, when the time was right volunteering for Special Forces Selection with the hopes of making it to Special Forces.

I was a college senior when September 11th happened. In fact, the morning of September 11th, we had just submitted our functional branch request. Infantry was my first choice followed by Armor as my second. I eventually got my first choice - Infantry and I graduated college and went to Fort Benning, GA to complete about a year of training before I would make it to my unit. I completed 16 weeks of Infantry Officer Basic Cource, Airborne School, Ranger School, and Mechanized Infantry Leaders Course. During my last few months at Fort Benning, stuff was heating up with Iraq. I didn't have the time to follow the news, but I remember thinking to myself about how messed up going to war with Iraq would be. I never saw or understood our reasoning to go into that country. But, that didn't really matter. I figured that by the time I actually got to my unit that the "war" part of the war would be over and it would turn into another Kosovo-type of deployment.

I got to my unit in June 2003 as they were returning from Kosovo. They got orders that they were going to deploy to Iraq in Feb 2004. I was given a platoon in January 2004 - just in time to deploy with them to Iraq. None of us had any idea that Iraq in 2004 was going to be as intense as it was. We all thought that maybe we'd see an IED or maybe a small arms ambust (if we were lucky) but we would probably be doing the same thing in Iraq as we did in Kosovo.

I ended up spending 13 months in Iraq as an Infantry Platoon Leader. To make a long story short, it really shook up my core beliefs about how I thought that the military was and should be used. After seeing what combat was really about, I dropped my dream of seeking our Special Forces Selection and the plan I had for my life completely changed. In a deployment that I thought would maybe result in a singe IED strike or maybe a single small arms ambush, I found myself fighting in numerous small and large combat operations. I got lucky in that my platoon was attached to a different battalion during Fallujah in November 2004. The rest of my company went on to spearhead the marine operation there, but I still managed to find more combat than I wished for.

On 18 June my platoon was involved in a 24 hour firefight in which we were credited with kill 26 and on 24 June we were part of an operation in Baqubah and were credited with killed 14 there. After a small-arms exchange on another day I had the privilege of combing a field and finding a young boy that had been shot in the crossfire. It really made me feel like crap to deal with him and his family. After another incident, a van filled with candy was misidentified and hit. Our weapons ripped the middle of it open like a can, set it on fire, and spit candy and soda everywhere. One guy was running around with a big hunk of his head missing and brain spilling out while another guy burned to death in the drivers seat. The combination of his fat burning and the fabric of the seat melting stuck his body to the seat and we had to actually get a scraper to remove him. There was another incident in which 5 Soldiers in my platoon were killed when I lost a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. There is a lot more, but that is the stuff that is just sticking in my head the most right now.

I remember sitting in a palm grove on the side of the road just chilling and eating some lunch when some guy thought it would be a great idea to throw a hand grenade at me. It blew up 15 feet in front of me, but nothing actually hit me (I don't know how that happened). I remember just being pissed and angry that I would have to 1) stop eating my lunch, 2) get off my butt and react to it, 3) and, the worst part, write an after action report about the incident.

None of this had anything to do with the image and ideal that was fed to me during my childhood that the Army was there to liberate and help people. My actions and the situations that I found myself in have disturbed me deeply and I feel even worse when I realize that it was all for nothing.

It is a shame was bush did to our Army. It is filled with good people who want to do the right thing and who care deeply about the values our country was founded on. Unfortunately it keeps finding itself being used the wrong way and used in situations contrary to our core beliefs. I loved the Army and the people and I miss it deeply.

Great article

Thanks for posting this.

I've started to want to talk about the war more and more to my family, the people I work with, and the people I know, but it seems that most people don't want to hear anything about it. It makes them uncomfortable and, in the end, it makes me feel awkward. I know at some point that I should move on with my life, but that is much easier said than done. It has been about 9 years since I was still in Iraq and much of it is still constantly on my mind and my thoughts even though I'm far removed from any previous associations I have with the military and the people I knew at the time.

There is so much I want to say, but nobody I know seems to wants to listen which in the end just makes me feel even more isolated.

To quote one of my idols and favorite authors (Kurt Vonnegut): "So it goes."

Makes me think about when I was in Iraq

we'd get radio calls all the time alerting us to a possible car bomb with a description as vague as "black BMW 3 series". I hated those calls. What did my command want me to do whenever I saw a black BMW 3 series in Iraq (they were all over the place where I was in 2004, it seemed like every 4th car could fit the "black BMW 3 series" description)? I always was a smart-ass and radiod back and asked if they wanted me to destroy all of the BMW 3 series cars that I saw. Of course the answer was no.

Don't even bother me with this stuff. I just want to go home was all that I was thinking.

You could just stop the wars...

That might work.

Or make sure that we don't start wars that aren't truly necessary to our actual security and not just to attempt increase our power and posture in the world.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I'd imagine that a sizable portion of the emotional pain I feel regarding the war in Iraq that I experienced is a result of me realizing that much of it was a fruitless endeavor. I sacrificed and gave everything I had to our country and I have nothing positive to show for it. I don't see how any of what I did made the world a better or more fair place.

I know I probably was drinking too much of the koolaid when I joined the Army, but I really thought that I was joining the Army to protect our country and to help make the world a better place. I saw what was going on in the Balkans and how our military was being used to help provide stability and to stop genocide there. I idolized the Special Forces whose motto is "de oppresso liber" (or liberator of the oppressed). I first joined in 1997 and I received an ROTC scholarship in 1998. When I graduated college in 2002, I owed the Army 4 years of active duty service. I never envisioned that I could have ended up in Iraq destroying lives,families, and communities in 2004. That is not what I signed up for. That is not what I was taught in my childhood what the Army was supposed to be about. We were supposed to have learned a serious lesson about war after Vietnam. It's obvious that we've learned the wrong one -"Unquestionable support for our Soldiers regardless of whether or not they are fighting a just war", not "don't fight wars that are just".

My positive intentions and desires to improve the world around me was manipulated and perverted by those at the very top. The energy and desires that I had to make the world a better and more fair place was instead directed at the opposite.

At least if I would have been fighting in a justified war or if I really did make Iraq a better place I could play the "zero sum" game. I could say to myself "sure I did some pretty shitty things in the war, but at least I turned Iraq into a burgeoning democracy and a shining example of what the middle east could look like. The children of Iraq will be able to grow up and enjoy prosperity and liberty on par with that of my own children". Instead I'm left having to accept the reality that I did some shitty things in the war, left Iraq a more broken country than it was under Sadam, and the children that I impacted will be left with horrifying memories of their families being murdered around them.

I really didn't intend this to turn into another one of my war rants. At some point I need to get over myself and move on, but I constantly find myself being drawn back to the war. It has been nearly 8 years since I've been in Iraq yet it is still constantly front and center in my mind.

I know it's not the same, but I raided my share of wrong houses when I was in Iraq

we'd plan these elaborate large-scale raids where we'd target 6-10 houses in a smallish community and hit them all at once with 400+ Soldiers and all of their accessories. On more than one occasion I remember getting the neighbor's house or being a block or two off from the intended target.

I really felt like crap for doing it, but we'd kick int he doors, throw stuff all over the place, segregate the the women, children, and men and start to process the people we thought we should detain. Kids and women would be crying and all hell would be breaking loose in the houses. Then, the battalion intelligence guy would say that we got the wrong house, we'd cut the zip-ties off of the wrists of the men and leave as fast as we came and hit the supposed correct house.

Talk about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis... I always felt terrible for panic I caused - especially after having kids of my own. I couldn't imagine how I would feel to be woken up in the middle of the night to a group of 20-40 heavily armed Soldiers with Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles ripping up my house, scaring the crap out of my kids, and arresting me and taking me away from my family.

Actually, I really feel like crap for most of the stuff I did in Iraq. I had a lot of opportunities to display compassion and to soften my presence and I blew most of them. I really could have made a difference at least to the small sector that I worked out of as a Platoon Leader and been a much kinder and gentler person. The sad truth is that I was probably just as scared doing what I was doing in Iraq as the Iraqi people were of me and I was just trying to survive long enough to get home. "Violence of execution" is a major tenant of operations and how the military functions and, as a younger and more naive guy, I executed all too well without enough restraint.

I know that this is starting to turn into a lengthy rant now, but my experiences in Iraq in 2004 really shifted me hard to the left and made me a much kinder and gentler person.
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