Fallujah Veterans Return Home

Larry Nicholas is a Navy Corpsman and an Iraq War veteran who fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. He has written an amazing post in Tom Ricks’ Best Defense blog about Sailors and Marines returning from combat:

Larry Nicholas, Navy Corpsman and an Iraq War veteran, writes of Fallujah

The year was 2004. Our unit had been tasked with taking back the city of Fallujah from insurgents. We attacked the city, and after weeks of savage combat we succeeded. Several of our brothers were killed, many more severely injured, but in the end we accomplished our mission. We stayed in Iraq a little while longer, after which we went back to our duty station. Upon our return though, we were grasped by a surreal regard.

Everything around us was the same, except for the way people looked at us. They looked at us like we were superhuman. Everywhere we walked people would move out of our way, like Moses parting the Red Sea.

The Corporal was especially well regarded. He had a right to be. While I was proud of my part in the battle, it was nothing compared to what he had done. The tales that were told about his heroism were unbelievable, unimaginable, but they were true.

Shortly after coming back the Corporal started to have problems. He had taken to alcohol too readily, often becoming very drunk. During the Marine Corps Ball he was walking around his dress blues sloppily incoherent, intoxicated out of his mind. Seeing him like that was devastating. I felt as if I was watching him being slowly reduced to ash. I tried to talk to him for a little bit, hoping some sense would come though. He only said this to me, “I wish I was still the man I was in Fallujah.” I feared that the Corporal was becoming lost in his own anguish.

It is a sad story. Vets have to look after each other.

The Military Draft

There are advantages and disadvantages to bringing the draft back. At some level, conscription helps society by growing up those who refuse to do it on their own.

Boot Camp has a way of teaching recruits how to function under stress. (Of course, some slouch, rather than excel, their way through. And the fleet takes care of ‘em.) It also instills patriotic pride. A draft-based military helps mix society and ensures everyone has skin in the game.

The disadvantages lie in those who are unwilling. Fragging is the not the highest form of patriotism. I’ve heard and read of too many horror stories about draftees.

I don’t want to serve with someone who did not volunteer for the World’s Finest Navy. I’ve had Sailors working for me whom I’ve had to remind of the conscious nature of their situation. No one forced them into the uniform.

Thomas RIcks has an exceedingly poor argument about why we should bring the draft back:

Since the end of the military draft in 1973, every person joining the U.S. armed forces has done so because he or she asked to be there. Over the past decade, this all-volunteer force has been put to the test and has succeeded, fighting two sustained foreign wars with troops standing up to multiple combat deployments and extreme stress.

This is precisely the reason it is time to get rid of the all-volunteer force. It has been too successful. Our relatively small and highly adept military has made it all too easy for our nation to go to war — and to ignore the consequences.

Get rid of the volunteer military because we have been successful? And it is too easy to go to war, really? The military declares war on no one. We follow the civilian leadership. The problem he bemoans is Congress’ and the President’s doing, not ours.

It almost sounds as if he wants us less able. We should be punished because we have been successful.

Politicians scream for the draft, but the attempts to bring it into discussion have mostly been political. I won’t mention them by name, but whenever I hear the draft discussed by our pols, it is not to improve the military. No, it is to win cheap political points.

The bottom line: I don’t see us instilling a draft anytime soon. The public is smart on this issue and senses that our military will only diminish in capability. Truly, there is no backbone or appetite for the move. And we have plenty of smart, able-bodied men and women to fill our ranks.

A draft may be good for some of the populace, but not for our fighting force. Or am I wrong? Does not Tom Ricks’ argument linked to above sound misplaced?

Hand Salute: Bookworm (for firing me up!)