Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Unmaking of A Marine

If you are interested in Veterans Affairs as we are, go read this book review.

If Boudreau's brutally honest, devastatingly accurate, hard-hitting memoir, Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine were read by the powers that be in Washington, D.C. and by the journalists assigned to cover both military conflicts, there is absolutely no way in hell the plight of our nation's veterans would take a backseat to the issues currently dominating the evening news coverage or the topics of conversations at dinner tables throughout the country.

And therein lies one of the central themes of Boudreau's 222-page book: the images of the war he has heroically fought have been implanted inside of his mind and are on a permanent loop.

"To say I was duped is not sufficient to lighten the load," he writes. (my em)

The post-traumatic stress of the war in Iraq will forever be a part of Boudreau's identity and it will be a lifelong battle to keep it in check. For some soldiers, post-traumatic stress is the precursor to suicide, for others it leads to a life of drug abuse, alcoholism, or crime.

Boudreau said "the smallest action or phrase from a commander can influence Marines and other soldiers not to seek help."

"The pressure to prepare ourselves quickly was intense. When the first Marine came to my office and asked to see the psychiatrist about some troubling issues from our time in Iraq, I was sympathetic. I said, "No problem." When another half dozen or so Marines approached me with the same request, I was only somewhat concerned."

"But when all of them and several more returned from their appointments with recommendations for discharge, I'll admit I was alarmed. Suddenly I was not as concerned about their mental health as I was about my company's troop strength."

Boudreau said the treatment of post-traumatic stress is antithetical to the mantra of "Mission Accomplished."

"The mission will always supersede treatment," Boudreau said. "And because of that the treatment will always be dubious."

"And all the talk from bureaucrats about putting an end to multiple deployments, which has been blamed on the skyrocketing cases of post-traumatic stress and suicides, is inconceivable," Boudreau said.

"I've heard the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say 'we have to change this ethic,'" Boudreau said. "But it's not going to happen. Why? Because the military cannot afford a 20 percent reduction in its force."

There are hundreds of thousands of known PTSD and an untold much larger number that are as yet undiagnosed or have not surfaced yet. This is a problem that will be with us until the last Veteran of Bush's Dual Clusterfuck dies eighty years from now. Or depending on how long the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue, 150 years from now. We had better do some serious thinking as a nation about how to deal with it in a compassionate and effective manner or we are going to pay a tremendous human and societal price for Bush's criminal imperial misadventures. The cost of his entire administration in actual money so far, both current and the debt passed to two or three generations yet to come, will be as nothing compared to the cost of not doing the right thing for these Veterans.

Crossposted at Alternate Brain.

1 comment:

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