Friday, March 2, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers

I just watched the movie Flags of our Fathers and Wow is all I have got to say. Maybe I am just a softy or maybe war movies affect me more because I have worn a uniform, I don't know. But, if you want to let a few tears role out take in this film. It is brilliantly graphic like Saving Private Ryan and touching like We were soldiers once and young, and tells it the way that I view it. Soldiers don't fight to spread freedom, they fight for each other. I have had the honor of working with my own generations war wounded and even been a long on VIP tours of the capital and the Pentagon. On both occasions I went to help those with amputations get on/off buses and negotiate curbs, stairs, ect. Nothing made me feel so uncomfortable as having huge crowds of people break into applause when we entered rooms on each tour. I am nothing special for sure and was along only to assist so I naturally felt odd, yet the guys I was assisting were just as uncomfortable with all the well wishing and HERO touting. Many many of the men and women I helped with rehab told me they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My generation's war is not fought like previous ones. I treated soldiers who were blown up in their vehicles when driving in a long convoy. Their jobs were often as simple and as far away from a war fighter as you'd think one could get; like supply clerk, and truck gasoline refueler. These days we in the US Army never fight anyone straight up. We are simply too good, we have too much money, too fantastic of equipment, ect, ect. What gets us these days is unmanned, often unsophisticated improvised explosive devices (IED's) cowardly hidden where our troops travel. It is certainly not any less tragic. Perhaps even more so.

Watching a movie about previous wars has always made me think that my generation has got it good. And when you look at the staggering death toll numbers, you certainly can make the case that we do. Yet today, our battle practices and protective equipment is so much better, and our medical care and injured evacuation so many light years ahead of what it used to be, that the numbers killed has remained low. However, in Iraq for every one killed there are 9 severely injured. That means 28,000 and counting. And that is a big ugly number.

While I worked at Walter Reed I always felt a little bit guilty. Here I was working everyday with those that had been injured in "theater" (Iraq / Afghanistan) when I had never been. I even resisted getting and wearing the new army ACU uniform as it was mainly used by those who had been in the war. Initially it was like a badge of honor, and I did not want to wear it if I had not earned it. But, understand that the Army is a huge corporation one million strong with soldiers currently in over 120 different nations. We go where we are told. Currently I am in the Sinai, Egypt on a peace keeping mission. I am in the middle east. I am in an area where in the last 3 years 130 people have died at the had of Terrorists IED's and suicide bombs, but I am NOT in IRAQ. I feel pretty damn fortunate, but, I still have a little bit of guilt. Believe it or not, we have about 30 physical therapist serving in theater currently.

In a related topic, it has been interesting to read about all the hoopla with Walter Reed lately. And I am impressed with the big responses including the presidents today. I hope the problem gets fixed, but I can tell you the problem was not created by the latest General who got fired. He had been there only 6 months. The problem has existed for 4 years. To fix it you need to hire more people to process the paperwork and insure things are getting done (and not getting lost) , not fire people.

ahhh anyway, wasn't it Rodney King who said: "Can't we all just get along?" I like to hope so, but honestly, I don't think we can.

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