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What GWOT Taught Us About Sending Our Own Children to War

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It’s a hard thing for a Veteran to enjoy his war experience and then ask himself if he would be willing to see his son fall in the same war.  Or worse given the trend of the military, his daughter, the same one watching Sophia the First on TV right now.  The truth is that war brings with it unique and exciting experiences that can turn into a horror movie in mere seconds.  Not all are cut out for it, I did it but to say I was uniquely designed for it would be a stretch.  Some are, but I fall into the category of adequately got it done by the grace of the Almighty.  However, for as much as the online Veteran community would honor our wars and as much as politics would make us follow partisan opinions of the war, I think it more powerful to ask if we would send our sons to fight the same war.  The answer among GWOT vets could vary greatly as we are not homogenous minions, but my opinion?  No, I would not send my son to fight the same war I fought in Iraq and watch him fall as a result.  Granted Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2002 can be considered wildly different experiences, but this is mine.  It’s not cowardice or fatherly protectionism, but rather the good governance war Veterans ought to offer this country on this side of the uniform.  We did our duty in war and now we must do it for our sons.

The Online Veteran Community

For the greater good of his nation, we must evolve my friends.  We must with growing maturity and I pray we are part of the solution and not the problem.  Beyond musing about our war experience, which we embrace, we must ask what it has taught us more than what we enjoyed.  Saying “Till Valhalla” online is all good until it is your son you are sending to Valhalla.   For all the keyboard warriors online, we simply will not be the ones to kick in the doors of tomorrow.  Rather, it will be our sons and if that is not a question you have honestly pondered then you clearly have no sons.

SemperFive

Just today, my nearly 2-year-old son ran up and hugged me.  And then due to his violent nature, starting punching me in the face because he has the social conscience of Freddy Krueger.  Would he make a good Marine?  I think so.  But would I send him to a Muslim land in 2003 so that we could have the result we have in 2016, the answer is a definitive, NO!  Blame the interference of politicians all you want, but as the older generation of Vets would tell us we GWOT Vets are to become the influence on said politicians and the future of war in America.

Somehow in 1990 the Vietnam generation influenced the Gulf War generation of politicians to get it right with clearly defined political objectives and overwhelming force.  And yet, by 2003 and the invasion of Iraq we seemed to have lost said influence.  However, I’m not here to revisit history but rather to look into our future.  Would I happily send my son into the Gulf War?  Yes.  Would I happily send him to Operation Iraqi Freedom as was I, the answer again is a definitive NO!  For the sake of our sons, we must differentiate what we enjoyed versus what learned about war.  Now, for a Beatles classic.

All These Places I Remember

It’s time to let it go brothers and think more about our sons than ourselves. “All these places I remember. In my life, I loved you more” said the line in the Beatles song.  For better or worse, I think so fondly of my time in Iraq that you would think I’d preference my own children live there.  Except that, I want them nowhere near it.  The places we remembered and the men with whom we served are all fine things to remember just so as long as you ponder what matters most to you now.  Brothers, if you genuinely believe the Iraq War a success then do as you please.  However, if there is a part of you that would hesitate to lose your son in the same conflict with the same end result then please, pause, and evaluate for both your son and mine.

For everything, there is a season.  A time to fight and a time to die.  And perhaps it is this dreadful election season that forces me to realize I’d preference my son not die at the hands of those in charge.  Would I happily send my son to the war of Trump or Clinton’s choosing?  Would you?  If Veterans really want to influence the future of politics, then we ought to weigh in heavily on which wars are to be fought.

Memorial Service aboard USS Kearsarge

Kids going over to Iraq today were 5-years-old when I was there in 2003.  If that doesn’t make you feel old, then I don’t know what will.  We listened to Linken Park and these kids to Miley Cyrus.  Seriously, if anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan currently gets caught listening to Miley will you just beat them up for me?  I mean we have standards in the Corps, right?  But it brings us to the question at hand.  What did the GWOT wars teach us about sending our sons to war and is it cruel to ignore it for the sake of our own reminescent joy.

The Answer

When I went to Iraq in 2003, it was my WW2 D-Day Veteran grandfather who was worried for me more than any other.  Proud that I became a Marine, but worried for me on the precipice of war?  You bet ya.  It was as if he knew what awaited us all and I can’t help but think that for all the online bravado we must be as much for the next generation.

War sounds really cool until you watch a guy get turned into hamburger meat before your eyes.  Sure death in war is inevitable, but the question we must ask ourselves is what wars are inevitable? I love the online Veteran community, but as much as we have fun with it, we ought to in such a perilous century ahead ask what our war taught us.  Does our reminiscent joy dictate the future suffering of our children and for what purpose?  It’s a fair question and there is no one better to ask it than us.

isis war going well

I’m too old to pray for war, wish ISIS would come get me, or even wish the average mother would.  However, I’m old enough to have seen enough life to consider which war to which I would send my son.  Iraq vets who act defensively about their own war at the expense of their sons ought to ponder a minute or two more on the matter.  Or perhaps consider with the introduction of women in the draft and Infantry, ask if you would send your daughters downrange to fight the same men you and I went head to head with.  Call me old fashioned, but it’s one thing to ask the military to “man up” your son but an entirely other to ask them to send your daughter to face men like ISIS against her will.  So I ask again, what did GWOT teach us about war?  Keyboard warrior all you want, but it will be your son, my son, and our daughters fighting the wars of the future determined by our influence or lack thereof.  Seems like something we ought to figure out now rather than later.

Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Page Below if You Love Your Children.  Seriously, Who Doesn’t Love Their Kids!

Jeff Edwards

8 Comments

  1. While you do bring daughters into your discussion, try substituting “children” for sons. Says a female 27-year veteran.

    • Get over it. One would think a 27 year vet wouldn’t be so sensitive to something so petty.

  2. Thank you and I whole heartedly agree. I find nothing more anger provoking than when I hear family or friends advocate that we should go in there and “take care of business” with Isis or whom ever else that they feel need to a good slap down. They want to use someone else or someone else’s child as their own spoiled little fat ass would never be found in the military but they do “support our troops and they have the sticker to prove it”.

  3. It has been said that no one in their right mind goes to war because it is a good idea. It’s never a good idea to go to war. But sometimes we must. Deciding when is not always easy, especially in an age of irregular warfare when the enemy doesn’t deploy tank armies and occupy cities but hides in the shadows and stealthily moves forward. For all his failings, the president is now starting to get it right in Iraq and Syria. We are crushing ISIS; slowly grinding it into pieces. Americas are involved but this time we are in the shadows and stealthily moving forward. We have killed 6,000 of the bastards at the cost of 1 American in the process. The president could have avoided the death of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions if he would have destroyed the Syrian air force three years ago. A balance of power would have settled in and the emergence of ISIS avoided. But the system is greater than any one person. We learn and adapt. Just as the decision to send 100,000 soldiers to Baghdad was profoundly stupid, so was Obama’s inaction. But we learn and adapt. Even he could not ignore the facts. Today a complex, clandestine system, spearheaded by special operators, having relearned the lessons of Vietnam, is slowly wearing the enemy down. Would I want my son involved? If he volunteers, yes. This is a war we must fight. Never lose faith in America. Thank you for your service.

  4. I had seen war by the time I led you and the others in 03. You guys were so pumped up to get some . All the while I prayed we would have no more casualties that the occasional case of diarrhea. I watched as my baby brother served 3 tours and prayed daily for him. Then it came time for my own son to go and I prayed harder and rarely slept well that year. He followed me not only into the Corps but the Infantry as well. And I would have been a bitter old man if he had died fighting a war that we maybe shouldn’t have fought , but most definitely should have won by then. I tried to talk him out of it, as my own veteran dad had done to me. I have learned that your sons will admire and look up to you so much that they will want to walk the same road. So, in some part, you will be you’re own undoing when it comes to sending them to war. I knew the affect it would have on you boys like I knew how it would affect my own. And it saddens me still. Like the Spartans I firmly believe politicians should be veterans because it would give them more pause when they get an itch to send young men off to die.

    • Hello Shane, it is sad to say but yes we are own worst enemy when it comes to keeping our sons or daughters from serving in a combat type rating. I have a daughter and she asks about my time in the military and I tell her it was both good and bad but as she is 8yo I cannot go into how bad, the bad can be. The problem is that there were also many good things and I grew as person and had experiences that I would never have had if I did not enlist or may have not gone to college (VA – training accident) after discharge and have a very nice life and family. I served with some great people but also with some total shitheels but that is life is it not and I don’t regret my time. The problem is that kids only see the adventure and hear the stories about crazy things you did when you were stationed in oh let’s say Pensacola, drank way too much and asked that stripper to marry you and the willingness to fight for her honor with the biker that was her boyfriend (she deserved so much better- lol lol)… Well you get the idea (feel free to add your own stories here. Lol lol )but that will not be a story that I share with my daughter. The sad part is that you cannot explain to your kids how high the cost can be as they cannot fathom it as they have no experiences to base it on so they focus on funny stories and they discount the chances of being hurt, maimed or killed.

      I agree whole heartedly about politicians being veterans as it makes it much harder and is much less abstract when you have lived it. To have politicians who have both cleaned the head (navy) and also ones that have been certain they would die only to live through it and thank God, Jesus, Budda or the lucky charm in your pocket for what you thought would be the end. War to many people is an abstract thing and there is a reason the media, president, DOD or whomever sanitize it and it is because the truth can be brutal and incredibly ugly. The public would not be so eager if they knew the real cost as I am sure you very well know but then again it always easier if you do not have skin in the game! I understand that sacrifes have to be made and in my view wars are at times inevitable but by God be damn fucking sure it is for a good cause because people will die, both combatants and innocents!

      Neither of those two asshats nor most in Washington, state or local government can fathom what true sacrifice is and I am not talking about flying economy class vs business or first class. I am not optimistic!!!! Lol

  5. While I was in, I served in the Middle East, but never in Iraq or Afghanistan. I was excited to go! Pumped! I was disappointed that I wasn’t going somewhere action packed, but I was a technical person in the Air Force, this was as close as I was going to get. It was cool until the first day that I got there. Nearly everyday there were soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan who were passing through our base in caskets. That’s when it became real. This is real. These people have families who are grieving right now.

    I worked with several contractors, and was amazed by how much they were making while there. I’m sure that they were nice guys outside of that environment, but their motivation was money, not mission, not doing the right thing. Everyday I was reminded that they were making nearly $200,000 per year, they couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I’m stuck for another X number of months, while caskets come in like clockwork every day.

    The whole thing didn’t seem right to me.

  6. after serving for 38 years 1965 to 2004 Iwould not let my children or grandchildren serve in what the army has become somethihgs are better …But the leadership has quit caring about the troops it started with the BUSH CABAL AND NO ARMOR and continues with their goody 2 shoes alcohol rules thependulum has swung from beer machines in the barracks to not even alowing a glass of wine with dinner the night before a training op….(A general got relieved over that )

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