Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about two high profile suicides and, inter alia, spoke of my deep loathing of politicians who shovel around our troops like concrete and treat them as though they are toys who can be disposed of when broken. No doubt due to my own ineptitude in making my meaning clear, a number of readers took me to be dissing the troops, not the pols who treat them with such contempt and neglect. One fine woman, a mother of a Marine, wrote to express her concern and a correspondence ensued that I think is important for anybody who cares about the strain our men and women in harm's way face as our feckless government continues to play with their lives, force their families on to food stamps while demanding they endure combat, and toss them away when they are no longer useful:
I read your article on the two suicides through...(scanned mostly), the comments and it got into this argument over just war vs not just war...and very few focused on the suicides and causes and no solutions!!
Here is my original comment that never got through..(most likely due to a computer glitch I think)
I personally prefer to be called anti-totalitarian, pro personal charitable out reach. Government charity is cold charity and doesn't help anyone.
But I am also technically a conservative. I also have two sons in the Military serving under this president who I disagree with on just about everything. Bush, I only voted for because he claimed to be pro-life, and the Republican party likes to string along pro-lifers just for the heck of it. But that is another issue.
Maybe you didn't mean to make it sound like you were implying it, but it sure sounded like it to me..and I resent the implication that all service members are war criminals or potential war criminals and that all conservatives are war hawks, and worse yet, that we don't care about men like this young man.
You are using this poor mans tragic story to accuse and for your own political views.
Not only is that tacky and in poor taste, I think its cruel.
Might I point out, the devil is an accuser too.
You are basically saying all service members are war criminals. It reminds me of the kind of commentary we used to hear after Vietnam, calling American soldiers baby killers etc. I don't buy it. It was very mean spirited, angry, and accusatory. I have two sons in the military, and well as nieces and nephews who served bravely under Bush, then Obama. One nephew was in one of the battles of Fallujah. My own father was in the Marines and suffered from crippling PTSD. The facts are war is very very ugly, and no one comes out unscathed. These wounded service members aren't baby killers or war criminals. If anything, we are and were duped. All I remember pre-Iraqi war was the 911 attacks and pictures coming out of Iraq and Iran of mass graves and streets filled with dead Kurdish mothers and children....I could only go by what I was reading, and the news stories from BBC to Salon all said Saddam was dangerous etc...I personally felt that someone like Saddam who was capable of doing that, if aligned with Al-qeada was a very dangerous situation.
The only thing I’m and most conservatives are guilty of is being fooled. At least I feel like I was fooled.
We do just love 20/20 hindsight.
I don't have all the answers. None of us do.
But fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us.
We can start by unilaterally NOT supporting anymore military operations like Afghanistan etc and stop using our military as the UN attack dog. It’s demeaning.
And fixing the immigration system so good honest people who want to be in our country and have families here can come here safely and be safe, while shoring up the boarders to our south to keep drug cartels and other nasties out. That would be the best use of our good military.
As for the system in place to help these wounded...its a MESS.
I recently read
“At the VA's Winston-Salem Regional Office in North Carolina, an estimated 37,000 claims folders had been stored on top of file cabinets, according to the Inspector General's report released last week. Those piles had been stacked two feet high and two rows deep. The file cabinets were so close to each other that drawers could not be opened completely. More files had been stored in boxes on the floor and stacked along the wall.
A load-bearing study found that the weight of the files exceeded the floor's capacity by 39 pounds per square foot.
"The excess weight of the stored files has the potential to compromise the structural integrity of the sixth floor of the facility," said the Inspector General report. "We noticed floors bowing under the excess weight to the extent that the tops of file cabinets were noticeably unlevel throughout the storage area." from Rebecca Ruiz, NBC News
The article is fascinating, the comments more so, or the neglect and hoop jumping our Vets put up with, and this is years and years of this kind of thing, across several administrations.
The VA is simply not capable of helping young men like this poor soldier and thousands like him. Sure, we should try to implement changes to the massive bureaucracy which is the VA, but don't hold your breath and wait for it to work. Government is not the answer, WE are. The Government isn't going to do it.
We are the only ones who can help these men and women. These are our sons and daughters, our family. I mentioned that my dad (a WWII vet and Korean war vet) was afflicted with horrible crippling PTSD...he would go into catatonic states for hours, He suffered from depression and often couldn't hold a job and he drank heavily. BUT...When he did have a job he would hire on Vietnam vets, and we always had one of dads 'strays' doing work around the house.
We should all be giving to the charities that are popping up all over the place, to help them.
My personal favorite is pets for vets..
God forbid anything happen to them, but if it does...I know already not to expect help from the government, it has to be from Christians and people of good will who help these men and women.
Please stop slinging the blame game mud around.
My sons are out there.
No, I am not saying that at all. I’m saying that the politicians who recklessly sent our fine troops into harm’s way and then abandoned them are war criminals. I am a conservative myself. Conservatives know that soldiers are not playthings for enacting the Great Society abroad at gunpoint. They know that going to war is the gravest decision a pol can make because men like Somers will be forced to carry out the orders and suffer the consequences, not a draft dodger like Dick Cheney. I have great reverence for our troops, who are volunteers and deserve far better than the strain, exploitation and abandonment our Ruling Class (both Dems and GOP) have inflicted on them. I have no “agenda” beyond the conviction that our troops have been badly abused by the chickenhawk politicians who sent them to a war that the Church warned should not have been fought.
Here is her reply:
Then I do absolutely agree.
My son is a Marine and this summer we had the chance to have a family reunion. All year we had been anxious that he would be deployed to Afghanistan. One night after dinner and after a few drinks he let his guard down to his father and I and told us about some of his best friends, what they experienced and how they are coming home from that evil place profoundly spiritually and mentally damaged and he was afraid.
He's not afraid to die...he was afraid of loosing his mind and soul.
So many of these kids have no spiritual foundation or faith to shield them from the obvious evil over there. And its evil over there.
Meanwhile, Our Politicians too often play both sides against (Dem vs GOP) the other while later they go golfing together.
Thankfully, God is sparing my son (who will not re-enlist) and he is not being deployed. ...but so many still are.
And for what purpose? I'm a news hound, and I've read everything I could, but I honestly don't see any reason to be there.
Could you please mention in your columns some of those wonderful charities that help the Vets?
Thanks very much for taking time to read and answer my email.
Since this conversation, several things have come into my mailbox that, perhaps, will help to make clear what I'm getting at. One of them is this disgusting spectacle as a chickenhawk mammon worshipper is confronted by a woman who lost both her legs and the use of her arm in the service of her country. This wretched specimen of a man attempted to profiteer from the real sacrifices of real human beings by claiming that a football injury from college qualified him to suck the government teat as a Wounded Warrior. Braulio Castillo is the sort of creature who fills you with burning shame for belonging to the species homo sapiens. Tammy Duckworth is one of the increasingly rare phenomena, a member of the Ruling Class who has actually endured what our Ruling Class is so eager to send others to do in their place. She is not kind but she is profoundly just as she minces this wretch into little tiny pieces:
Unfortunately, though, most of our Ruling Class see our troops not as Duckworth sees them--comrades who suffer and bleed and sacrifice as volunteers like she has--but as rats upon whom experiments can and should be tried since they are the one class of Americans who are entirely within the dictatorial power of the State and whatever Caesar feels like doing to them today to make himself feel progressive...
The shocking stories of religious hostility in our nation’s military continue, and now, Liberty Institute represents Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who was relieved of his duties because of his faith and moral convictions.
Senior Master Sergeant Monk, who served as a First Sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, recently returned from deployment and found he had a new commander who was an open lesbian.
“In one of our first meetings, she was talking about her promotion and she mentioned something about a benediction,” Monk told Fox News. “She said she wanted a chaplain but objected to one particular chaplain that she called a ‘bigot’ because he preached that homosexuality is a sin.”
“She then said, ‘I don’t know what kind of people actually believe that kind of crap,’” Monk continued. “I knew I was going to have a rough time in this unit and I would have to be very careful about what I said.”
Or to work through the fact that when his country called, he had "other priorities".
Or, most recently,to embark on yet another vast experiment in trying to export salvation through democratic capitalism by force. Still more blood and treasure are now to be flung at Syria in the absolutely insane plan of acting as Al Quaida's Air Force so that Obama can feel manly. The only certain result to be expected: yet another Christian community in the Middle East will be exterminated.
Funny thing that. We may be wining and dining Saddam as Donald Rumsfeld used to do when he was our Valued Ally
or we may be killing him.
We may wine and dine Assad
or suddenly call him Hitler (cuz he's like, just about to invade America and bring the iron fist of authoritarian rule to Detroit.... wait, that doesn't sound so bad!)
We may help regimes who are gassing people or suddenly pretend to care.
We may put bin Laden on our payroll or our Most Wanted List.
We may fight Al Quaida in Afghanistan or we may incredibly start calling them Freedom Fighters and appoint ourselves their air force as Obama, McCain, and Graham wish to do.
And, of course, death and suffering for our troops, who are the ones forced to carry out the orders of the geniuses who fight Al Quaida in Afghanistan and seek to arm them in Syria. These Ruling Class geniuses are the sort of people who say things like this with a straight face about the Radical Islamist "Freedom Fighters" in Syria who are murdering Christians and beheading teens and forcing children to behead their victims too:
When these Statesmen meet to deliberate the awful question of life and death for our troops and those they order to kill others, they show the care and heavy sense of responsibility they feel:
Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 3, 2013
And on the Dem side of the aisle? Our Dear Leader keeps his focus on the most important thing in the world to him: how all this makes him look and how it's all everybody else's fault. Meanwhile, our vigilant media explains that our troops need to kill and die so that damp-handed pols who don't serve can "save face". What's more important? The sons and daughters of hayseeds in Flyover Country or the pride of a flabby coward in DC?
So the Party of Peace rams a crazy war resolution through committee to go "do something" in Syria. Besides, it's just lobbing some missiles at foreigners, not human beings. It will never involve our boys--until all of a sudden it does. But what the heck! That just allows our brave troops to model sacrifice yet again--along with their families who have to live on welfare while every multimillionaire in the Senate, House and White House (exempt from their own laws) continues to massively enrich himself. What's a fifth tour of duty or a family shattered by the strain of endless parental absence and the threat of death and dismemberment? The point is that our Ruling Class feels really good about themselves--courageous even--as they send our hyper-stressed troops out on yet another war of Empire! Our brave Syrian Al Quaida allies in the struggle to bring death to still more defenseless Christians are being served--and the experiments our Rulers are performing on our troops to discover their breaking points are going wonderfully well! Any sacrifice is worth that. No wonder our Ruling Class is thinking about cutting back on food stamps for military families. That which does not kill them makes them stronger.
Not, of course, that all our troops are suffering. Some, such as John Kerry, who have the pluck and enterprise to denounce their fellow soldiers as baby killers when it will get him a shot at high office, have parlayed their military service into an immensely successful life-long quest for power and wealth, thereby going from denouncing his fellow troops who were forced to fight in a stupid and futile war (and bravely facing the applause of Massachusetts voters in 1971 as he did it)...
...to continuing his lifelong quest for power and wealth in 2013 by forcing soldiers to kill and die in another stupid and futile war. If you are puzzled about the seeming contradiction, remember that the common denominator is not "The good of the troops forced to fight, kill, die, maim, and be maimed in stupid and futile wars" but "The enrichment and empowerment of John Kerry" whose life, like the lives of so many of our Ruling Class, has been one long pursuit of wealth and power. The troops he alternately denounces and sends to kill and die are merely useful stepping stones to that goal.
Which brings us back to Daniel Somers' suicide, and my reader and her son and thousands like them. Because when our Ruling Class is done running our troops through yet another experiment in building the Great Society on barren Muslim soil, and sending them into harm's way with no clear plan or exit strategy, and bringing them back with deep physical, psychic and spiritual wounds, it has a proven track record of leaving them homeless, jobless, and treated to such classy stuff as this:
Insult to Injury: Wounded warriors snubbed at Walter Reed dining hall
In a disturbing revelation about the treatment of America's most severely wounded troops, Fox News has learned the military earlier this month decided to invalidate meal tickets and reduce hours for the sole dining facility in the Walter Reed building where they are recovering.
The decision affects the Warrior Cafe located inside building 62, home to all multiple amputees and long-term, recovering patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
The decision would mean wounded warriors who would normally have a government-funded meal just down the hall would have to walk, wheel or limp nearly a half-mile across the Walter Reed campus to the temporary "food trailer" for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"I mean it's called the Warrior Cafe, you would think it is for us," said Sgt. Josh Wetzel, who lost both his legs when he stepped on a pressure plate IED outside Kandahar, Afghanistan in May 2013. He's been recovering at Walter Reed since and has been a daily customer at the cafe.
Thus does a grateful Ruling Class thank and honor the people who have given up everything in service of their country. The men and women who have laid down their lives to protect, serve, and defend their fellow citizens--and the ones who have lost limbs, eyes, families, livelihoods and so much more--don't deserve our pity. They deserve our honor and our Rulers deserve their pity and often their complete and utter contempt. Our troops deserve, when they are wounded, care that is not the sub-minimum but all that is necessary for a flourishing human life. Above all, they deserve responsible rulers who remember at all times that it is people--brave, self-sacrificing volunteer human beings--who are going into harm's way every single time some clammy-skinned worshipper of Mammon, Mars, and Venus in Washington, DC or LA decides that somebody needs killing.
May God bless my reader and her son and all like them, who have followed Jesus' call to lay down their lives in love for their neighbor. Though our leaders are commonly men and women who are deeply and shamefully unworthy of their office as they betray our troops while they enrich themselves and bring death to so many innocents, nonetheless God sees the offering of self our troops make and honors it. But above all God blesses, not the pencil-pushing warmakers and feckless criminals who send other people to kill and die in order to "save face", but the peacemakers like our Holy Father: