With the news of Fallujah I can’t shake a gnawing emotional agony from reflection. There are a lot of great articles, (here, here, and here) and while most people are grabbing the Marines, it can be viewed as the high-profile early-bird view of the potential fate of every city across Iraq. I think the question resonates deeply with everyone who fought: Was it worth it?
On top of the Fallujah questions, I have seemingly more people than ever wanting to talk to me about my service because of the movie Lone Survivor. I have not seen it yet. I am by no means close to the caliber of the SEALs and SOAR aviators who fought and died in Operation Red Wings. Still, because of the current Veteran’s place as “the other 1%”, I am the closest thing most people know to compare to those stellar Soldiers. I don’t know how to respond. I told my wife I wanted to see it, but I am honestly afraid of what my reaction will be, and that makes me want to see it more. (As a side note, if you have seen Lone Survivor and it is fucking you up, don’t hesitate to reach out.)
Most days, if I get cocky, I think I have this PTSD shit licked. Then the real world interrupts and the collision of these two public events sends me back to Earth like and Airborne trooper with a cigarette roll. This past week I am mostly just pissed off and melancholy.
I find myself desperately searching for positives from my war. I turn and look to Vietnam and the similar history of a war both won and lost at the same time. I look to their subsequent actions and their activism to baseline where we have “progressed”. Should I even try to find a positive in such an evil thing as war? Is that the only way to make sense?
Did less people died in Iraq and Afghanistan than Vietnam? Statistically I think there is data to support that notion. Though it makes me sad to think of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead because of our intervention, the advances in medical technology certainly saved more people on the battlefield and that can be seen as a positive right? But despite my fondness for metrics, those numbers don’t mean shit to me when the smell of blood and cordite still haunt me in my nightmares. The numbers now do not help the amputees. How many children are now parentless?
Is there strong enough causality to the change this war initiated back home? Equality got a boost because of this war. The men and women sacrificing while having their rights ignored pushed many debates into the open. Hypotheticals became actuals. There is a whole other blog post about just those effects alone. But was it worth it?
We suspected this would be the case. We told ourselves that what we did had meaning and lasting impact and would not be in vain. I remember one of my LT’s pointedly questioning the Colonel about the history of “defeating” insurgencies. What made us so special? How were we different? His question echoes today.
Was it worth it?
I resort to the idea that anything anyone thought they went looking for or thought they went fighting for was erased with the first bullet fired in anger. All that was left was the men and women you went to hell with and doing what was asked to get them home. Unfortunately, there is only a small section of the United States who can and will ever understand the sacrifices made by a voluntary few. At this point in history, if I try to understand the value of worth of our efforts beyond that, my head explodes and I am left picking up the pieces.
Was it worth it? At this point, I don’t know. I may never know. And that is part of the extreme mind screw.