Friday, January 12, 2007

Ashamed: A brief rant and apology

First, I want to be clear. I’m not ashamed of my military service. Far from it. I’m not ashamed of any of the men and women in uniform not even the ones who have been found guilty or stand accused murder and abuse. For them I feel at worst pity and sadness.

I served in the Minnesota National Guard for 8 years. I loved it. I loved everything about it. I even loved the shear mindless nihilism of sitting for hours next to my howitzer (and it was always “my” howitzer) waiting for something, anything to happen.

At the end of 8 years, and having been deployed to Britain for six months and missing the first three months of my first child’s life (I was lucky enough to be able to be there for his birth; other with me at the time missed the birth of their children) I did not re-enlist. I wanted to. I talked it over with my wife. We both knew what was likely to happen, as the war in Iraq went on and steady progression of Reserve and Guard units were deployed. The week my term of service ended, a car bomb killed three National Guardsmen in Iraq. I didn’t re-enlist.

A year later, my unit was activated, for a year long deployment to Iraq, with approximately six months training before leaving. They were due to come home in March of this year. Yesterday, as part of our “new way forward” their tours of duty were extended by one hundred and twenty-five days.

I am no knee jerk patriot. I have never believed the war in Iraq was necessary, although I did not think it was entirely “evil,” either. It has, however, been terribly mismanaged to the terrible detriment of both Iraqis and the soldiers involved.

And I am ashamed I did not re-enlist. My friends, my buddies stayed and went. Everyday I watch for their names in casualty lists. Everyday, I know, not think, but know I should be there. I’m ashamed I haven’t done more for them. Ashamed for letters unwritten and support not given.(see comment for finish)

4 Comments:

Blogger Grendel said...

Well I seem to be unable to get the final paragraph to go in the post, so here it is:

I know being there would erode much of my already tenuous hold on being a "nice" person. It doesn't matter. In my heart, I know. Somewhere my friends are getting hurt. In their hearts, their bodies or their minds. Hurt, that I should've born, not them. But didn't re-enlist. I didn't go. For that, I am ashamed beyond words to tell.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Cherry Red said...

Grendel,

Thank you so much for your service. I have a great deal of respect for you. As for feeling shame for not re-enlisting, don't. You served our country for 8 years. Men (and women) will always be out there getting hurt on behalf of our country. You served longer than most people do. You sound like someone with a very good heart. Enjoy spending time with your children.

I have never believed the war in Iraq was necessary, although I did not think it was entirely “evil,” either. It has, however, been terribly mismanaged to the terrible detriment of both Iraqis and the soldiers involved.

Amen brother. Tske care and don't beat yourself up. You don't deserve it.

Kim

12:09 AM  
Blogger Jerjo/Carjo said...

Wow, I had no idea you felt this way Grendel. I still think you did the right thing at the time. Your regret is understandable but you did what you felt you had to do at the time for your family and career. Take pride in the years you served and try to channel all this into a poem.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Grendel said...

Thanks, although I consider the entry something of a prose poem. . . I'm still torn by the whole thing. While I think Hemingway was an idiot for joining a war so he could write about it the army and the people in it gave me a lot. So I've always felt bad that when the army asked me for something, I wasn't in a place to be able to give back without at least temporarily harming other important areas of my life. Thanks again for your comment. I'm trying to make updates to this at a better pace than every month and a half. :)

8:47 AM  

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