A Window View into Afghanistan

A Window View into Afghanistan

August 1, 2010 – For most of us, we make decisions and form opinions about war without having any firsthand experience.  Our point of view is shaped by our experiences, the people with whom we spend our time, what we read, and what we watch on TV.  Many of us don’t even have a personal connection to the military, therefore the war is just something that takes up time in a news program and seems to always be a hot topic in political circles. If you don’t have a personal connection to the war, you are probably tired of hearing about it and can’t seem to understand how it could possibly affect you as you go to and from the shopping mall.

What if you had an opportunity to look through a window into a day in the life of a US Marine fighting in Afghanistan?  Would you stop and take 15 precious minutes out of your day to take a small glimpse at what this young man is doing?  Could you view his world from his perspective?  Are you willing to separate your negative feelings about war, politics, and big government to see what it’s like to wear his combat boots?

If you are courageous enough to peek inside such a window, I’d like to share a glimpse of a typical day in the life of our combat Marines who are just following orders and doing their job. There are only a couple of rules.  First, you MUST turn off your opinions. Second, you MUST truly view this window from the Marine’s perspective which includes the following:

He is young.

He is patriotic.

He enlisted because he wanted to do something good for his country.

He has grown up in a post 9/11 world.

He wants to make a difference in this big world.

He is one of the good guys and he wants to rid the world of the bad guys.

He has got people at home who love him and whom he misses desperately.

He has no idea what is going on in the rest of the world, only what is right in front of him.

He can’t make a phone call.

He can’t get on the internet.

He is tired.

He can’t sleep for the nightmares that are haunting him.

He is hot.

He is hungry.

He is thirsty.

He hasn’t taken a real shower in weeks.

He’s been wearing his uniform so long that it is stiff from the salt of his sweat.

He’s been wearing his socks so long that they have practically disintegrated.

He can’t shake the memories of his buddy dying in his arms yesterday.

He can’t shake the memories of the IED blast that nearly took his life.

He feels guilty because that blast took the legs from his sergeant two weeks ago.

He’s standing out in the middle of a field in Afghanistan.

He can’t see the enemy, but he knows he is exposed and surrounded.

He’s got months of these days behind him, and months of these days ahead of him.

He doesn’t get to make any real decisions.

He doesn’t know why an order is given. He only knows he must follow it.

He knows lives depend on his obedience.

He is frightened, but he can’t admit that, even to himself.

He can’t just decide to go home because he’s had enough.

He spends a lot of time wondering IF he will ever make it home.

Are you ready to look through the window? If you are, here is a warning. It’s hard to look through the window, but it’s something every one of us should do.   I had to force myself to stay at the window for the entire 15 minutes that it was open.  After doing so, I find myself overwhelmed with emotion.  I am filled with sadness and yet, I find myself furious at the same time.

My son is a Marine who has served three combat tours.  He is now one of our nation’s wounded warriors.  PTSD and TBI  have redefined his life.   PTSD and TBI have redefined the lives of our entire family.  The past 20 months have been long and frustrating.  We have been robbed of son and brother.  He is no longer the boy who enlisted six years ago with the idea and intent that he was going to serve and protect our nation.  After looking through this window, it is no wonder that my boy is gone.  I’ve gained a better understanding into why he is now just a shell of a man who is fighting to survive countless experiences such as this one.  Imagine…this is only one small glimpse into one small part of a day in the life of the Marines we see here.  Just one day….. and we expect them to come back and be whole and unchanged!

With whom am I furious?  Everyone out there who doesn’t care enough to try to understand the hearts and minds of those who put themselves in harm’s way.  I’m angry with those who think they support the troops by giving their opinions on the war.   I’m angry with civilians who would rather sit in judgment of those who wear the uniform than put one on themselves.  I’m angry with Americans who would rather look the other way when our veterans cry out for help.  I’m angry with the commander who would rather throw the problem out the back door because he only thinks of his career and there is simply no room for a weak link in his battalion. He has long forgotten the early days when he was wearing boots on the ground.  I’m angry at the lawmakers who have lost sight of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they established this nation.

When you look through this window, put yourself in the boots of a Marine. In this moment, it really doesn’t matter why he signed on the dotted line.  He doesn’t have the privilege of analyzing and debating why he’s fighting this war and who gave the order.  At this point, he has to obey orders and he wants to stay alive.  He wants to keep his buddies alive.  He’s a sitting duck in the middle of a field.

How does he feel as he runs right into fear when he tries to save his buddy’s life?  How does he feel when he watches his buddy take his last breath?

Before you make any more negative comments about our troops, remember the view from this window and remember it from the Marine’s perspective rather than your own. You can’t support our troops with a negative attitude and opinionated comments.  Believe it or not, they know what you are saying. You can’t support our troops by demanding that they come home now.  Believe it or not, they can’t just pack up and come home. They are doing this for me and for you despite our government’s real purpose. Be grateful that someone is willing to do this for you.

When they finally come home, you can’t sit in judgment if they are changed and troubled.  The behavior, typically labeled as symptomatic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is caused by a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. The behavior is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.  If we don’t try to understand WHY, we can’t possibly be supportive. The end result will be countless lives spinning out of control because there is no help to be found.

Click on the link to watch the video.  Endgame in Afghanistan: Its’ Taken a Year to Move 20 km.

Originally published by the author on fellednot.com.


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