Monday, February 09, 2009

Keeping the Faith: A Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

This letter comes to you from an unlikely supporter: a young Iraq War vet from the blood-red state of Texas. As an Army recruit in basic training, I cast my vote for George W. Bush in 2004 because I felt he was the best choice for a responsible prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five years and a combat tour later, I have come to understand the consequences of that decision. Last November I pulled the lever for you after hearing about the refreshing notion of a new era of government accountability that never existed in my adult life. I was sold when you promised to end the practice of involuntary mobilization, a program that reactivates veterans out of the service and sends them back to war. Given the new era of responsibility ushered in by your administration, it is imperative that you keep a promise made to the tens of thousands of veterans across the country.

I am writing to you on behalf of Steve Lewey, one of Illinois' bravest sons. Steve grew up in a working class family not too far from your old stomping grounds of Chicago. He did well in high school and went on to college to study architectural design. After realizing he and his parents could not afford to continue his education, Steve enlisted in the United States Army at the age of nineteen. He did so not only for education benefits but to satisfy the intense need to serve his country in a time of war. As an infantryman, Steve completed a fifteen month tour in 2007, distinguishing himself in the Battle of Baqubah, the deadliest battle of the surge. In one instance, after an insurgent attack claimed the life of our comrade, Steve completely exposed himself to enemy fighters by climbing on top of a Stryker vehicle and firing at three insurgents, killing them instantly. On a dirty and blood-soaked street in Iraq, no one seemed to notice the kid from Chicago in an act of remarkable gallantry. Many of my fellow soldiers are walking examples of his bravery - without his incredibly selfless act, more American soldiers would have surely fallen in that battle.

With his GI Bill in hand, Steve left the service after an extended combat deployment and headed back home to Chicago in the winter of 2007. Filled with the fire of discipline and motivation he found in the Army, he settled into a job and waited patiently for the new GI Bill to become law. He wanted to finish the schooling he started so many years ago. That dream came to an abrupt end late last month when he came home to find a thick brown envelope on his doorstep. Inside were instructions on where to report for medical screening for a deployment back to Iraq.

The IRR has been used in the past as an emergency pool of trained soldiers to augment forces overseas, but recently history has shown it has been badly abused following 9/11. The link between Iraq and the Global War on Terror is tenuous at best, yet the Presidential Reserve Call Up Authority still exists to mobilize and deploy inactive soldiers even in cases of non-emergencies, Iraq being a clear example. Though repeated and lengthy deployments are causing a terrible strain on active duty soldiers, there was no concern on the part of your colleagues to expand the size of the military to meet the rigorous demand of two wars. Instead, the Department of Defense has overindulged on inactive soldiers meant to fix temporary problems, not become long term solutions. Though you seek to draw down forces in Iraq, Mr. President, the recalls continue in the twilight of a six year war.

For combat veterans, the task of integrating back into society has been a difficult journey as old as war itself. From Odysseus to eighteen year old soldiers coming from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the path to normalcy is wrought with post traumatic stress and a disconnect between soldiers and their civilian counterparts. The added weight of a potential involuntary recall is more undue pressure on the fragile mind of combat veterans. Army career counselors exacerbate the duress with threatening phone calls and ominous visits to the homes of veterans, suggesting recall is a certainty if they don't join the Guard or Reserves. For Steve and over 20,000 inactive soldiers across the country, their worst fears have been realized in the form of mobilization orders. For them it's another crushing defeat in an already burdensome mission to find peace after war.

For years, you have spoken extensively about the need for a more robust civil service program in the country. I cannot think of a greater civil service than serving in the military, especially in a time of war. For eight years, soldiers have sacrificed their bodies, minds, and in the most tragic of cases, their lives, to complete the mission. We have stared into the black abyss of war to see an inner reflection of triumph and tragedy. There are pieces of us, physical and otherwise, that are left on the battlefield forever. That is what we gave up for this nation. Now that the war in Iraq is coming to a close, it's time to end the recalls immediately. Every soldier in the military stands ready to report, mobilize and deploy in any corner of the world in 96 hours or less. The abrupt cancellation of the Presidential Reserve Call Up Authority and subsequent orders would seem effortless in comparison to what soldiers stand ready for each and every day.

"Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America's commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."

The words above should look familiar. You said them on the presidential campaign trail as my unit conducted combat patrols in the fifteenth month of our tour in Iraq. It must be realized that above all else, the American soldier is the most valuable thing this country has to offer. The bodies, minds and lives of our fighting men and women cannot be taken for granted. There is too much at stake. Ending the involuntary recalls is a step in the right direction to repair the ties that bind the military to the citizens they stand to protect. You were Steve Lewey's senator in the great state of Illinois, and you are now his President. You must keep the faith with him and the many thousands of veterans that hold recall orders in their hand and uncertainty in their hearts. For more than two hundred years, soldiers have fought to protect this land. Now it is time to ask you, Mr. President, to fulfill your commitment to end recalls and put veterans back onto their long journey to peace and prosperity.

Very Respectfully,

Alex Horton

******

I have never expected any politician to keep their word, but this issue is too important to remain pessimistic about. Lives and futures literally hang in the balance as we wait for the president to pick up his red pen and cancel the Executive Order allowing the involuntary mobilizations to continue. Please take a moment to send a message to the White House comment page. There is a 500 character limit, so please include the link to this post ( http://armyofdude.blogspot.com/2009/02/keeping-faith-letter-to-president-obama.html ). You can also contact your House representative and let them know about the issue. Anyone that can get the gears turning - newspapers, magazines, local and state politicians - let them know. This is not something to remain quiet about. Spread the word, help some veterans. Now it is your turn to protect them this time.

61 comments:

Annette said...

I hope you sent that letter... if nothing else posted it to the White House web site.. it needs to be seen by at least someone in the staff.. I would also like to post it at my site if you will give me permission. It needs to be seen by MANY MANY people so they can see the real cost of this war.

Alex said...

Annette,

I sent a brief summary and the link of the letter to this comment page, but feel free to do the same. They'll ignore one plea from some veteran in Texas, but they might start to notice the link after a while if enough people send it in. They allow only 500 words, so make sure you put the link of the post in there! Meanwhile, everybody, send the link or the story to your newspaper, your House representative, anyone with enough influence to get this issue in the face of someone in the administration, if not the big man himself. It is absolutely imperative.

Annette said...

My Representative here in my district in Missouri is Ike Skelton, even though you are not from here he is very involved with veterans and veterans issues. You might send your letter to him. I don't know if it would help but it might. I will also send it to him. Just a suggestion. But I have known him all my life and he has always been very helpful and an open ear. That's all we can do is just try.

Just a guy said...

Welcome to the world of Politics.

I don't mean to pee in anyone's Corn Flakes, but there is precisely zero chance that he will do this. None. DOD won't stand for it, and their response will be that everyone knew what they were getting when they signed on the dotted line.

I'm not all that sure I disagree, because I'm weird that way. I believe the government should keep it's word in every respect... just like I believe that when we enlist, we should keep our word as well.

This is a man unnecessarily putting this nation on the hook for $9.7 trillion in debt that the CBO tells us we do not need to do.

Do you honestly believe he gives a damn about you or anyone else in the military, save as political fodder? Ask those kids that were in the hospital at Landstuhl that he blew off so he could go play basketball.

I'm sorry that you bought into his shtick. I'm sorry that you believed this man... believed IN this man. Now, you have to live with that.

I have opposed "retro-active" applications in benefits just like I now oppose retro-active changes in enlistment (and in this case, IRR) contracts, to include the idea of retro-active application of the new GI Bill and the retro-active application of the newer double-dipping retirement program that allows both a disability AND a 20 to 30 year retirement.

Each of us bear responsibility for the promises we've made... the contracts we've signed. Both of YOU made the decision to go IRR; no one forced you to take that route.

You made that decision knowing what the consequences might be. And now that those consequences, which you knew in advance, have arrived, you want out.

Sorry. I cannot and will not agree. To that end, when it comes to "Keeping the Faith," you would be better served to keep that particular Faith with the decisions that you and Steve have made.

In the future, ponder all of the outcomes before you make a decision. But, once made, don't bitch when what was likely to happen actually does happen.

That Steve is a close and battle-tested friend of yours that you rightfully care deeply about is clear. That he, and possibly even you, will now be tasked to keep your word is not a compelling enough reason for anyone to act to let you out of that commitment.

Fire away.

Alex said...

Just a guy,

I have no problem fulfilling my commitment. If inactive soldiers were being recalled for Afghanistan, I'd have a hard time disagreeing with that. We have a personnel crisis there and surely need more bodies. In the end, it's the characterization of Iraq as an emergency still that doesn't sit well. Do you think it's an emergency? If so, why did George Bush ask the country to go to the mall instead of a recruitment office following 9/11? No other empirical evidence suggests the need for callups, just a seven year old executive order that is gathering dust. That was the point of this letter: to cancel that order. In the post below this one, I cite a Pentagon study that says 74% of active duty soldiers have deployed for 12 months or less. 74 PERCENT! Should they be carrying some of that weight? What, Ft. Jackson pogues trying to squeeze in 20 years with no combat patch should just blow off a deployment while those out of the service are getting called back? How does that make even a shred of sense? They should be top priority for mobilization. When just one combat brigade pulls out of Iraq with no unit to replace them, that should be enough to take care of the number of IRR soldiers that are in Iraq at any given time (a couple thousand). Big Tobacco said it best in my comment section: "Yeah, they need 11Bs right now... to sit in the BDOC and watch "The Golden Compass" on bootleg DVD."

I've heard a lot from the right how we're winning, how the IA and IP are more competent and confident. Then why are we still at around surge levels? It doesn't add up.

We're not supposed to be used unless there is a dire need. That's where the whole "not taking the military for granted" thing comes in. The IRR is supposed to be temporary, not part of a long term solution. You sound like an apathetic civilian with that "signed the dotted line" nonsense. And I'll even play your game: they didn't hold their end of the bargain. I was told I would only be called up in case of WWIII. Do you see any Russians in your front doorstep? No?

Enough with the political bantering about Obama. This is a military blog and this post is about the IRR, not the stimulus bill. I agree with you, but this isn't the appropriate forum.

Your other comments alarm me, like being against the new GI Bill. That kind of reasoning doesn't go far. I hope you refused an issue of a Mich helmet because a K-Pot "covered your head just fine."

The Minstrel Boy said...

ooo rah dude.

oooo fucking rah.

(my post code is flayerop which is the dangling bits of tie down that flutter from the back of a duece and a half.)

Ronster said...

"I have no problem fulfilling my commitment"

Then. Just. Do. It.

Alex said...

Ronster,

Are we in an alternate dimension where my name is Steve and I have been recalled? Only then would your post make any sense.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact that IRR recalls give ammo to IVAW douchebags like Matthis Chiroux.

C Man said...

"Then. Just. Do. It."

Hey, Ronster, what about those of us in the ARNG? I was a prior service (Marine) who enlisted 11B in 2005-06 on a "Try a Year in the Guard" contract.

I already had fulfilled my eight years of obligated service. Why was I stop-lossed beyond the terms of the contract after a swell tour of Anbar?

I did ALL the terms of the first, then the second contract, and yet I was held in a unit not only beyond the time in country, but for months and months after we got back.

I mean, during the stop loss no Army doctor ever treated me for the four IEDs that blew away my hearing and left me with TBI. I had to pay $4,000 out of my own pocket for that treatment.

And a newbie LT who will never deploy took my boots when I finally got to turn in all the equipment, or get charged for it. He didn't want the ones with the blood splatter of my buddies that won't come out. He never deployed, and never will, because guys like me get stop lossed or recycled through IRR.

If we're going to end the IRR bullsh*t, can we end the abuse of stop loss, too?

Ronster said...

Alex I read the post about you sweating getting recalled. Is that not what this is all about? Stopping that before it happens?

mamalew said...

Alex!!

You rock Sweetheart!! Just having your support makes me feel so much better. I appreciate each and every word you write and I'm going to follow through with my own comments to the links you gave. The comments you get give me hope and even though we may not be able to keep Steven from having to go back, perhaps we can get something started that will prevent this from happening to someone else's soldier.

Just a guy,
My "battle-tested" son was just 18 when he signed the papers. He always dreamed of being a soldier. I prayed that he would change his mind when all Hell broke loose in Iraq and we even checked into colleges, but financially we couldn't do it. So he returned to his first dream - being a soldier. He honestly felt that maybe, just maybe he could make a difference. Ahhhh the innocence of youth... It's not about not keeping his commitment, it's more about others keeping their commitments.

Teresa - Steven's VERY PROUD mom!!

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Alex,
Very nice piece of work.
I'll get in touch with the "O" Man as soon as I'm done here.
You, of course, have my full support and I'm not even going to qualify that a la "Just a guy" and "Ronster".
Keeping the faith from the perspective of you and the others in, and recently out of, the shit should be measured against the Faith of those at the top.
Suffice it to say, Little George and draft-dodger Dick have broken enough commitments that no one
owes them a damned thing.
Fuck 'em

Alex said...

Ronster,

Yes, I'm sweating recall, but it's my best friend Steve and others that I'm doing this for. I'm safe for now.

Anonymous said...

I got recalled in a dream once. I'm retired though, and have been retired for 5 years, making me a CAT-2 retiree. they have to go through the IRR, and the Cat-1 retirees before calling me back. Thanks for being a buffer for me.

I hope you don't get called up, but I might look at getting back into it since this economy sucks balls.

Roman General said...

Alex, you have a gift for writing my brother, such poise and intellect.

I am a Desert Storm veteran, facing my one deployment was almost unbearable. I could not imagine facing 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 tours. I would have killed myself had I had to face such mind warping pressures.

I faced 100 hours of continuous combat against the Republican Guard and saw literally thousands of Iraqis die in that short time. I cannot even begin imagine what you guys go through.

People do not realize the magnitude of your continuing sacrifices and the loss of self in keeping your commitments. "Just a Guy" and his flippant words, will never know the moral imperatives that a soldier commits to and what one losses in keeping such a promise.

Never in the history of modern warfare has the American soldier been faced with an average of over 200 days of combat during one tour. Now add the average of 2 to 3 tours and even Guy can add that up.

Annette said...

Alex..I have posted it on my blog.. I have posted it at OpenSalon and I have posted it at http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/annettesousley
several different groups including military groups who supported Pres. Obama. Hopefully they will read it and will contact him also, since it should be an issue close to them too.
As for the trolls here on the site.. we all get them, best to ignore them and not feed them...let them starve to death.. they are jerks and will never understand.. and that is the nicest I can be.... I am sure you know what I would really like to say, but I promised my mother I would be nice today...lol

Caitlin said...

I posted the comment! Good Luck! Love your blog!

Roman General said...

Dude, me again. I want to cross post this article in my blog. It is about much the same as yours with a different take. I have PTSD and in training to become a combat trauma therapist. Let me know soon, thanks again.

membrain said...

"In the end, it's the characterization of Iraq as an emergency still that doesn't sit well. Do you think it's an emergency?"

That's the heart of the matter. Iraq is not an emergency, plain and simple. Afghanistan is.

It seems to me that Big Army's bureaucracy is seriously FUBAR. And thats not good for the soldiers, the nation or the Army.

Alex is bang on.

Sewmouse said...

Dear Alex:

I've lurked on your blog for a while. I don't comment a lot, but this one I will.

President Obama was my Senator before he became President. The IN box on my e-mail has several responses to letters sent to him during his time as my senator. Granted, they were probably sent by an aide - but of all 3 of my congressional representatives (2 senators and a rep), then-Senator Obama was the ONLY one who responded to EVERY communication from me, and in a very timely manner.

Please print out your letter and snail-mail it if it is too long to get into the comment box - or if you can, find an e-mail for the President. I'm certain that with 50 times the amount of "constituents" that he had as my Senator he probably gets 50x as much mail, but something this respectful, well-written and heartfelt deserves to be seen first-hand, not just linked.

Please send it.

bigD said...

Hi Alex,
I still agree with you! So I will stand and fight this one on your side of the line. I have a plan and in my spare time I am working it!!
I have a list of all Illinois House members, addresses, and phone numbers for their DC offices and their local offices if anyone would like to WRITE or CALL these House members. If you do not live in their district you cannot email them. The Senators from Illinois will be next. Can you find out what district Steve lives in? It would be better to bombard the representative from his district and it would be even better if people from Steve's area would CALL EVERY DAY and/or set up a meeting. I am not sure, but, I think they are all in Washington right now and due to security issues, it will take at least two weeks before any mail actually gets in front of someone at their offices. I am sending my own letter with a copy of yours enclosed. I have emailed the White House site and my own Maryland representatives. Stay strong Alex. We fight many battles in our lives and some are more important than others.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”
~E. E. Cummings

"Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is startled, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.”
~ Robert Collier

I'll stand by you Alex and help you fight for your friends and for yourself. You are worth the fight!

P.S. Sorry I posted this under the wrong entry so I moved it over here. Hope that's ok!

Anonymous said...

Mostly I'm sorry the young man feels the need to tarnish his own noble sacrifice to date by whining that he is being asked to fulfill the duty he agreed to when he signed on the dotted line. He is expecting all the benefits of that agreement, but is unwilling to abide by all the consequences. Whatever happened to making the best of circumstances? Another year will put several dollars in his pocket to add to that new GI Bill he can't wait to reap, and deservedly so. Might add some maturity and insight, too. Or, he could be fed by the victim culture and demand he be excused because, well, he wants to be excused and it just isn't fair! A lot of that going around in America today...GC

Alex said...

Dear anonymous Blue Falcon*,

It sounds like you have served before, and apathetic veterans (like the one here who was shocked, SHOCKED a new GI Bill was enacted!) are almost as bad as clueless civilians.

"A few dollars in his pocket..."

And what if he loses an arm? Leg? Eyesight? His life? Or wasn't his psyche enough to give to the fight? When is enough? When he comes home in a flag draped coffin? It seems only then you'll be satisfied, give yourself on the pat on the back for supporting the mission (whatever that is anymore), and point to someone's death as another sacrifice someone made for the country. Get over your ridiculous angle of commitment, because I see nothing but an overreaching, overused policy that has been spun way out of control. If you think Iraq is a full on emergency meriting recall, a draft should be around the corner, right? Then it'd be time to talk about commitment.

mamalew said...

Anonymous,

Wow. Do you sleep well at night? Did you actually READ Alex's description of what Steven went through? Do you honestly believe that he is "whining"? What circumstances would you have him "make the best of"? Are you a veteran - have you ever been in a combat situation? Are you a parent? I doubt it. I'll stop now before my mother instincts get me into trouble. I've already given your post more attention than it deserves, especially since you made such strong statements and signed it "anonymous".

Teresa - Steven's VERY PROUD mom!

Jeff said...

Mamalew has one small advantage over me in that she and Steve have their situation right in front of them and are figuring out how to deal with it. After two visits to my home and numerous voice mails from Alex's local recruiter, now we're chewing our fingernails and waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. I'm back to dreading the ring of the doorbell and I hesitate before opeing my mailbox, fearing that I'll see that big brown government envelope addressed to my son. Enough is enough. Let the soldiers who have done their duty and pulled their tour have their well-deserved peace. Fill as many slots as possible with the ones who haven't yet done a tour or have spent their active duty time in more hospitable posts during their careers. Those who think Steve and Alex need to belly up to the bar AGAIN need to (1) enlist themselves or (2) persuade their own child, young relative or neighbor kid to sign up for the good of the country. I'd really like to hear Anonymous make his/her case to an eighteen-year-old civilian as to how it would "Put several dollars in (your) pocket...(and) add some maturity and insight, too." But then again, consider the source. I doubt the eighteen-year-old would find the argument to be persuasive.

Alex's Proud Dad

Anonymous said...

The answer to some of the questions: Yes, I am a veteran, but saw no combat. Yes, I am a father of two daughters who have done 5 Iraq tours combined as medics on convoy coverage, mostly in the Mosul and Tikrit areas. I am the uncle of one who is currently in a combat unit based in Mosul. So I do have some idea of what I'm saying and sleep as well at night as a father and concerned uncle can under the circumstances.

The fact is, they and the young man who is subject of the post signed on and understood, or should have, that the circumstances he finds himself in was a possibility and should be prepared to fulfill their commitments if asked. What does fair have to do with it?

We live in a culture that seems to think that asking one to fulfill a commitment makes one a victim. Bad investment-- excuse me. Bad mortgage term--- let me change them. Ask me to return to duty under the terms of my enlistment-- why me? I have the utmost respect for all he has done on my behalf, but am sorry he is taking the attitude towards his duty today. I wish him great luck and hope that great things come from whatever comes his way.

Instead of telling me how uncaring and insulated I must be, why not address the issue: does the enlistment contract obligate the young man to report for duty and, if so, why should someone else go in his place because he has other plans? I prefer to honor the service and not feed into the victim mentality that serves veterans poorly, and always has. I offer admiration, not pity.

Anonymous said...

And, I signed the post GC, which is no less anonymous than yours--- but again, why not address the facts? GC

Alex said...

GS,

I still don't see anything from you regarding the legitimacy of the callup or why 74% of soldiers on active duty remain on what my father described as "more hospitable posts."

By every account I can get my hands on, I've come to understand the involuntary mobilizations are just an unorganized mess lost in the shuffle. Mobilized soldiers often note that the officers they report to have no idea what to do with them. Soldiers who are chosen for their MOS usually do not go into the same field but in something entirely unrelated. For example, many infantrymen become civil affairs or military police. So here we have a tangled web of disorganized soldiers that have been out of the service for years going into jobs they know nothing about with rock bottom morale. If that's not one of the most senseless ways to fight a war you can imagine, try putting your daughters in the same situation. Imagine them, with years of medical training and experience in the field, tossed into the driver's seat for a fuel tanker or put in the gun turret for a thin skinned humvee. Put them back into an insurgent's crosshairs and we'll see who will be saying "that's enough."

By the way, when you said "why should someone else go in his place," I couldn't articulate my own point better. Why should HE go in the place of someone hiding on active duty? Catch my drift now?

Anonymous said...

Why? Because he is in the ARMY! It doesn't have to make sense or be fair and you don't get to ask why. I can ask plenty of why's as well regarding my daughter who went direct from AIT to Mosul on Christmas eve just hours after the DFAC was bombed. Found herself in a Stryker ambulance days later with an all female crew transferring detainees from Tikrit to Mosul during the worst that shithole had to offer, and spent nearly every other day on the roads dodging IED's and treating those who were not as lucky. Why?
]
They had her manning the gun in the turret which she had never fired once, mush less trained on. I won't detail all I know that she saw and did, and won't relate all I suspect she saw and did, but she did her part. Why?

I thought I knew the ARMY, but I REALLY wanted to ask why the hell was a female providing medical care to no shit al quida, driving through most hostile neighborhoods accompanied by some clearly incompetent commanders and NG units when the FOB was crawling with horny male soldiers who never left the wire their entire tour (not to mention all the male soldiers who never even got as far as a FOB).Why?

I wanted to ask why, but mine told me it was her duty, that's why. When she got transferred and deployed only 3 months after finishing her first tour, I wanted to ask why. When she got stop lossed and sent back the third time--- again, she told me because she had a duty to fulfill her commitment and it was pointless to ask why. Believe me, I wanted to complain and write congressmen and editors, but the fact is, she signed up and accepted all that came with it without great complaint and no effort to avoid duty as a good soldier should and I didn't let my instincts as a father take away from that. My other soldier daughter had a similar though thankfully less eventful experience and she, too, took the same attitude. She knew full well what the consequences where when she enlisted from her sister's experience, but did so anyway. 'Why?' wasn't a part of their experience. And if they called up today, they might have some choice words, but they wouldn't ask why or try to avoid their obligation. That's MY point and why I have little patience for such complaints from others and fight to not let it effect my respect and admiration for their heroic service, regardless. GC

Alex said...

"Why?" Isn't an acceptable question in combat or on active duty, but Steve is in neither of those things. As a private citizen getting on with his life, "Why?" is an absolutely vital question when it comes to a democracy. Why are some soldiers asked to do more than others? Why hasn't a plan to stop the recalls been drawn? Why doesn't the ISF take over more sectors to minimize the amount of soldiers deploying? Without the question "Why?", this nation would have never been founded. Our forefathers would have gone on oppressed under the boot of Britain.

Steve and I deployed for twelve months, but on the last day of our leave, five minutes before boarding a plane from Germany back to Kuwait, our tour was extended to fifteen months. We could have flown anywhere in the world to get us out of our commitment, or we could have delayed ourselves on some FOB. But during the deadliest period of the war, we went back to the absolute worst AO. Of course we asked "Why?" to ourselves, but we finished our commitment. Like I've said until I'm almost blue in the face, if IRR soldiers were going to Afghanistan, I wouldn't be making this an issue. But they're going to Iraq, a war started on admittedly bad intelligence that has lasted far too long. The people who got us into the mess in the first place failed to honor their commitment to send us where we are needed. And we're supposed to go to bat for them time and time again? For what, pictures of purple fingers and vaporized crowds?

I didn't ask "Why?" when I was asked to destroy insurgents by launching grenades into a house or lay suppressive fire down while my buddies were evacuated without their limbs. It wasn't the time or place for it. But I'm asking "Why?" now because I'm not a complacent fool saluting the status quo because nothing makes sense so fuck everyone that ever wanted to serve their country. If you want to carry on the Tory spirit, if you don't want to change policies no matter how absurd because of a warped sense of commitment, then fine. I just won't be a part of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't object to the effort to change the policy, just the personalization making this a special case for this reason or that. I'm not a big supporter of the recall policy, either. If one of mine gets that letter, I won't be happy, far from it. But it won't occur to me to try to make theirs a special case. What they did or didn't do in the course of their service is immaterial to the issue at hand. More is always demanded of some than from others for good reason or dumb luck. Why matters not. Such is life.

Steve isn't active duty or in combat, but he isn't a regular citizen, either, is he? He is obligated under the terms of his enlistment to answer orders to return to duty when such orders are given, is he not? Am I missing something?

'And we're supposed to go to bat for them time and time again?'
If you are obligated to obey a legitimate order under the terms of the enlistment you signed, yes, you are supposed to do as ordered by 'them'. You know that as well as I do. When the terms of your enlistment have expired, they can't order you to do anything and I'll be right beside you should they try.

'Our forefathers would have gone on oppressed under the boot of Britain.' You know Gen Washington had 100's of his soldiers executed for refusing orders, such as refusing to report for duty? We would have gone on under that boot had soldiers refused to fulfill their obligation as soldiers operating under the terms of their enlistments.

'if IRR soldiers were going to Afghanistan, I wouldn't be making this an issue. But they're going to Iraq, a war started on admittedly bad intelligence that has lasted far too long.'

Did you pencil that in on your enlistment contract? Or do you reserve to yourself the right to decide when such an order is legitimate and when it is not? It doesn't work that way in the military or real world.

If you think the order illegitimate, refuse the order and fight that fight. If you think the policy misguided as a citizen, seek to change it, but until the policy is changed, I suggest one obey the orders without any unseemly efforts to avoid duty out of some special exception. I have long made my opinion known to all that represent me that we need to increase the number of active duty brigades so such orders are not only unnecessary, they are clearly counterproductive. And so that females aren't doing combat roles in contradiction of official policy.

So, at heart I think we agree. With that I look forward to any response and will refrain from repeating myself should I have nothing to add. Thank you for your service and the best of luck.

GC

Alex said...

GC,

We agree on that heart of the matter to be certain. I do not seek from Obama or anyone else to grant Steve a special pass, but to cancel the executive order of recall that applies to everyone in the IRR. I put a face on it because that is the way the policy has touched my life.

I am trying to put an end to the recall as a citizen that has a relatively unique perspective on the IRR compared to the average citizen. I have done enough research and talked to enough people to reach an understanding of the policy beyond a casual interest in the subject. Being in the IRR for over a year doesn't hurt the ability to explain what it's like to be frightened to open my mailbox. The point of this post, and the point of any blog, is to inform the readers of a subject the author deems worthwhile. I think the subject of recall is worthwhile discussion, one that nearly every citizen should at least understand. Informing the public and lawmakers can set a change in policy in motion, hence the existence of this post. I aim to do that as a citizen and a veteran.

If tomorrow I open my mailbox and find orders, I transform from citizen to activated soldier. I will then follow my orders wherever they take me. But in the meantime, I'm going to try my hardest to fight this thing, not only for Steve, but for thousands of comrades that are trying to get on with their life. If I happen to be recalled, I'll put the issue on the back burner and fulfill the terms of my enlistment, and when that is over, boy, will I have something to say about it.

bigD said...

Hi Alex,
This has turned into quite a rig-a-ma-roll heh? I guess this comment is more directed to what GC had to say, but, here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

1.Just because the Army has something outlined in a "contract" does not mean it is inherently right, correct, fair, or legal. It is well understood by Junior enlisted that the Army can do whatever the freak it wants to and get away with it! This does not make it right. It seems that if the Army is not honoring its contractual obligations then the individual who signed it is no longer obligated to fulfill their part of the contract.
2. Now unfortunately, we all know that in the military the odds are stacked a mazillion to one against an individual soldier getting out of his or her contract.
3. How does an eighteen year old kid negotiate all the fine print on an enlistment contract? Should they all have a lawyer present? Shouldn't they be allowed to take a copy to a lawyer to review all the details and semantics prior to signing? For example, how does one define "emergency" with regard to IRR recall? How is this young recruit to interpret the following statement by their recruiter when referring to the IRR commitment..."Oh don't worry about that. You would never get called back...unless it was like WWIII!" Hmmmm??
4. Basically, the Army is not bargaining in good faith and therefore, the contract should be NULL AND VOID!!
5. In addition to speaking out against mandatory recalls in order to get this policy changed, I think the dark underbelly of military recruitment needs to be exposed for its devious and underhanded practices when it comes to selling our young sons & daughters a bill of goods in order to get them to join at any cost. Don't even pretend that all the bad is laid out their with the good, because we all know that that is far from the truth. Do we allow eighteen year olds to sign contracts for anything else without credit reports, references, co-signers? Why should signing up for one of the biggest ass-kicking's of your life be any different? What we need is a mandatory ban on all signing of enlistment contracts without legal representation present.

In addition, prior to signing anything all potential recruits should be required to complete a course called "So You Want To Be A Soldier In the US Military." Here are a few suggestions for topics for your consideration:

Day One - Military Acronyms 101:
BOHICA!

Day Two - Everything They Didn't Tell You About Basic Training

Day Three - How the military will FUBAR your life.

Day Four - Weather: How Mother Nature will severely harsh your mellow and make your life a living hell.

Day Five - Olfactory Preparedness: Yes, your shit does stink!

Day Six - Following Orders: When the man says "Jump!" you say how high!

Day Seven - General Order #1 & Port-A-Shitter Etiquette

Day Eight- War: What Is It Good For? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Day Nine - Coping Skills: 15-Month deployments and other harsh realities of war. (And you thought the school year was long)

Day Ten - IRR, STOP LOSS, and MANDATORY RECALLS or Return your books to the bookstore and report for another tour! Do not pass go do not collect BONUS. Length of said return to duty - unknown?

If after receiving counsel and completing this course, the recruit still wishes to join the military, step right up and sign on the dotted line!

And though I have created my course offerings with a touch of humor, the sad truth is that no fresh faced high school senior has any clue about this sort of stuff when they walk into a recruiters office to sign up.

On a final note, to GC: There was never a doubt in my mind that young men like Steve and Alex, would honor THEIR commitment and return to active duty as ordered, despite the toll that this may take on their bodies, their spirits, their souls and their families. However, it is their right to speak out against what I believe is an unfair, unjust, and unnecessary policy that was falsely represented to them when they joined the Army in the first place.

Once again, I am forced to ask who will protect and serve the rights of our soldiers as they deploy again and again to fight for ours?
When will the military machine face up to its own underhanded dealings when it comes to recruitment, IRR, STOP LOSS, and back door drafts?

Alex, please keep on asking why! If we never question what we are doing and why we are doing it, nothing will ever change. One voice can make a difference. Take care Alex, keep on rockin' the boat...a little water never hurt anybody. But, bring your life jacket...just in case. :P

Grung_e_Gene said...

Alex, with your permission I'd like to highlight your post and take extracts from it and the comment section.

I understand your situation and empathize. Keep up the blog, I don't know if it's a semi-open catharsis but you're already one hell of an essayist.

Alex said...

Gene,

Go crazy with it! The more people that see this, the better.

mamalew said...

After thinking long and hard, I have to admit, everyone here has made some good points. I cannot be completely un-biased, as the subject of the original post happens to be my son. As his mother, I speak with fierce feelings of protection - sorry - I can't/won't turn them off.

GC,
I admire your sense of commitment, loyalty and duty. I have not walked in your shoes - please don't assume you have walked in my or my son's. You and your daughter's situation and feelings are yours and yours alone. For whatever reasons - they are yours. My son's and mine are ours. The situation is becoming public - with our permission - and perhaps this is a good thing and perhaps not. This remains to be seen. I ask you, can someone who has been mislead, flat out lied to, disappointed and verbally abused truly be expected to feel the sense of duty and commitment that he felt when he signed the papers? Do you really expect him to be able to focus on the assignment he is given when he feels in his deepest heart of hearts that is it a farce? That the reasons are wrong? The war in Iraq is wrong. The people and soldiers of the United States were mislead and lied to. The soldiers were looking for WMD's that didn't exist. Their blood was shed and lives lost for what??? He knew all too well what the length of commitment was when he signed the papers. He trusted his commander in chief to do right by the people of the United States and the soldiers who voluntarily signed to serve him. As I said before, ahhhhhhh the innocence of youth. Steven would gladly step in so someone else wouldn't have to - that's why he volunteered. It's not about that at all. And, I WILL ALWAYS ASK WHY.

BigD,
Thank you for the list of people to contact. Please don't get me started on what a potential soldier should really know. Steven's recruiter lied to him and me from the beginning. Being from a small town, I guess we were sheltered and this guy knew just what to say and how to say it. From the time Steven's feet hit the pavement at Ft. Benning, all the recruiter said was proven to be a lie. Even then, he could have gotten out of it, but his dream of becoming a soldier and making a difference kept him going. He was fiercely committed to fulfilling his voluntary obligation and actually at this point had considered making the military his career.

Jeff,
You have my sympathy and prayers that you don't find that big brown envelope in your mailbox. I don't mind telling you - my world stopped when Steven found his. Just when he was getting back into his life and getting ready to take advantage of the new GI Bill - wham - there it was. Ten days later, we got a call from a recruiter wanting him to sign on for a 2 year stint to avoid being called up from the IRR. Funny huh? This guy didn't even know he already had orders. Some age of technology we're in.

Alex,
Again, you rock son. I cannot express how much I appreciate your friendship and all you have done. When you and Steven were on tour, I only heard his voice one time during the whole 15 months and that was when you and he were on leave. Steven told me that time on a base was very limited and internet and phone time was precious - he didn't bother using phone time as there were many soldiers that had wives and children that needed it worse than him (I didn't agree with this but I admire him for it). Your blog was my connection to him. Any info I could get was very important. Sporadic emails from him were my high points. Perhaps I am over-protective? Again, small town mentality. Anyway, thank you and God bless you!! I'll close, for now, as this post is probably way way way too long!!

Teresa - Steven's VERY PROUD mom!

Long-time RN said...

Alex,

Thank you for continuing to keep this issue in discussion. We will contact representatives in our state. If there is anything else that would move IRR recall into the public realm, let us know.

Anonymous said...

BIG D//And though I have created my course offerings with a touch of humor, the sad truth is that no fresh faced high school senior has any clue about this sort of stuff when they walk into a recruiters office to sign up.//

That simply isn't true, especially today. I know 6 fresh faced high school kids or recent graduates who knew EXACTLY what circumstances they could find themselves in if they joined the military, and they did it with pride, fully expecting that promises would be broken and they would be subject to one 'injustice' after another. I advised them as well as others I directed them to. Two of them endured service in Iraq, only to re up a the first opportunity. Bitching about the ARMY is one of the most treasured benefits or service. The military is imperfect and by its nature not designed to cater to the needs, desires or rights of its individual members, particularly not in wartime. Most understand that. I don't believe they are rare.

There are no excuses for claims of surprise by recruits, especially today with who knows how many blogs and personal pages of disaffected soldiers available with a few keystrokes in a Google search window, not to mention clearly anti military bias in much of the popular media. If potential recruits don't know, they just might need the military experience to 'raise their awareness' which is a euphemism for 'pull their heads out of their asses' and put a little good faith effort into educating themselves before signing their rights away. Again, individual responsibility and accountability is something lacking in our society.

MAMALEW--- Yes, I expect your son to do his duty without reservation just as millions of soldiers have done before him. From his description, I expect he will do just that when and if the time comes.

I hesitate to engage on the subject of the value of his mission since that really isn't relevant to the question of a recalled soldiers obligation, but it pains me to hear that our soldiers are being told that the mission they sacrificed for was illegal, for a lie, or pointless. The time to fight that fight is before they have made the sacrifice, not after. We did that to one generation to our disgrace as a country.

It serves some of them in particular very poorly and only adds to the pain and confusion. and all to often dysfunction, for the rest of their lives. I choose to honor their sacrifice and their mission because at its most basic foundation, the mission has been for the most noble of reasons and is now succeeding beyond almost everyone's expectations. Great potential has been unleashed and ideals have been preserved for those open to that reality. Our soldiers deserve congratulation and respect, not pity.

Anyone who thinks world changing political/ military engagements come without controversy, incompetence, lies, corruption, injustice, knows nothing of human history, and particularly our nation's history. But that doesn't have to lessen the nobility of our soldiers' sacrifices and heroism and it should never be allowed to dampen their pride, or even ours as the families of those who serve and have our own considerable sacrifices to endure. I thank you for yours already given and for any that may be asked of you in the future. I wish you the best and my respect, though we clearly have very different views on some issues.


GC

Karin said...

I've been a military dependent my entire life. The military owns you the minute you sign on the dotted line. They can promise you the moon or, for instance, medical benefits for life. Doesn't mean jack shit.

GS, I could give a rat's ass about your congratulation and respect. My husband did not vote for Bush 1 or 2 and he never supported the war in Iraq. However, when his time came to deploy, he went. He didn't complain or bitch (or claim asthma) about it like so many of his Bush-supporting colleagues. He just went. And let me tell you Nothing in this world and I mean NOTHING is worse than knowing you might lose your life because some half-retarded piece of shit was elected under questionable circumstances, lied again, and again, and again, and then invaded a country under false pretenses. Weapons of Mass destruction, anybody? A sure way to "add to the pain and confusion" of the troops is to continue to insist that the war had any merit. And quit making those stupid "thank you" hand gestures in the airports. They're just stupid. You want to respect the troops? Then respect them enough to never, ever send them into battle unless the reasons for battle are absolutely just and honorable. When they return, celebrate them. Give them free medical care, free tuition, free parking spaces for life. How about show their flag-draped coffins, GS?. Make their sacrifice count. And the minute you understand that our soldiers are risking their lives in a "war" based on falsifications, lies, and deceit, speak out. Crucify the liars who sent them there. Don't bury your head in the sand and insist that they still died for a noble cause. Please.

Erin said...

Alex, I've been a lurker for awhile but never commented. Just a quick note - the Obama comment page now accommodates 5000 characters, not 500, so you should be able to get that letter in.

I have also heard that Obama is personally reading ten letters to the President from ordinary Americans every day, vetted by his staff. I really hope this is one of them.

Keep up the good fight. I was happy to see that you posted again but so sad to see why.

Alex said...

Erin,

Almost in there! It cuts off at the second to last paragraph. Perhaps I shouldn't be so wordy.

Anonymous said...

KARIN---GS, I could give a rat's ass about your congratulation and respect.

I don't recall specifically offering you either, but I will take note nonetheless and you may consider yourself exempted from my generic offer of respect. Hope that helps.

GC

Karin said...

That's great, Anonymous GC/GS. You can join the legion of retirees who don't respect me every Saturday afternoon at the Commissary (you are a retiree, correct? Or do you just watch The Military Channel and vote Republican?).

Why not take the respect nugget that would have been reserved for me and dole it out to a lucky recipient at the nearest VA Hospital? It will do wonders to heal their broken bodies and spirits, maybe even help them get a job and pay some bills.

Fawn said...

GC- My response to you about your comment to MamaLew, about hoping Steve does his commitment when the time comes, is that I know he will. I'm his girlfriend, and we have discussed this quite a bit. Yes, he doesn't want to return to Iraq. Who really would? However, he does face the reality of having to return, and he accepts the very real possiblity of doing something he doesn't want to do.

Everything that's being done, being sent to the politicians, isn't just for him. It's for ALL service people who have done their tours, who are inactive, and trying to get on with their lives, and suddenly get that terrifying brown package. It's for those people that this is being done. Not just one, but for all. One person just helped get the ball rolling.

Alex- I owe you a hug should we ever get the opportunity to meet. You've been a great friend to Steve, and a beacon of hope and information in all of this. Thank you for all you have done for Steve.

Fawn
Steve's girlfriend

Walt Eldredge said...

Anonymous, I may owe you a partial apology. It was Just a Guy who referred to the fictional Obama basketball incident. If I gigged you unfairly on that, I really do apologize.

For anybody who is contacting the Prez or your Congress Peeps about this, it may help to reference Presidential Reserve Callup Authority (US Code, Title 10 (DOD), section 12304.) This is the citation for the legal authority used to make IRR callups.

Long-time RN said...

Thank's for the reference, Walter.

FOX3 said...

I agree, fully with you. It was eloquintly (spelling) and powerfully writen. Keep on pluggin, best of luck in austin

Annette said...

Alex,

This is off topic here I know.. but,
I need you to help me understand this please..if you can.. I really don't know what to say or do about this.

http://tiny.cc/PAhCO

Alex said...

Annette,

I cannot imagine the firestorm of controversy if, in 2004, a soldier refused to call George W. Bush his president. My goodness, he'd be drawn and quartered by the right. But here, he's a hero to some of the people commenting on that story.

If McCain was president, I wonder if the same guy would be suing to get McCain to show his real birth certificate from the Panama Canal. In any case, the Supreme Court certified Obama as eligible, and McCain was confirmed as well. This is a non-story about some pogue with sour grapes up his ass.

Karin said...

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/8/1401.html

Here is the US code that defines citizenship, keeping in mind that Obama was born in Hawaii to a US Citizen.

Alex is right. Non-story.

Annette said...

But that's just it.. it isn't.. you saw they are making it a story I am afraid.. this is part of the Alan Keyes lawsuit.. He is just one of many.. This involves more than him.. there are now at least 3 other active duty who have joined this and I am not sure how many retired, and now at least 5 state congressmen. Sen. Shelby from Alabama even talked about it at a Town Hall in Cullman, over the weekend and expressed doubt.

It is NOT a non story.. it is a story.

Alex said...

Annette,

No matter how much phony outrage they produce, they're going to have a difficult time with the Supreme Court ruling against their major case. It has been said that a birth certificate has been produced and shown as accurate, and even Fact Check.org shows a clip from the Honolulu newspaper announcing Obama's birth. So there's a wealth of information to debunk this silly story, and I'm not sure what can be done other than a clear presentation of facts that fly in the face of ass-sore whiners.

Karin said...

You mean this?

UPDATE: Richard Shelby's spokesman said the Cullman Times report in which he appears to question President Obama's citizenship is a "distortion" and that the Republican Senator mentioned that he hadn't seen the birth certificate only as a "throwaway line."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/senator-shelby

Annette said...

Another local resident asked Shelby if there was any truth to a rumor that appeared during the presidential campaign concerning Obama’s U.S. citizenship, or lack thereof.

“Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Shelby said. “You have to be born in America to be president.”


That's what was in the Cullman, AL paper.. It doesn't look like a throw away line.. they are standing by the story and have asked for someone who might have had a video phone or some kind of a recorder to refute Shelby... he is walking it back because he is getting called on it and they are making him out to be the douche he is and always has been.

http://tennessean.com/article/20090213/NEWS02/902130368

There are 4 TN state congressmen who have signed on to this same lawsuit... and there is one of my state congressmen here in MO who is signed onto it.

It seems to be gaining instead of going away. And yes, the SCOTUS dismissed the case.. they never RULED on it. That's what they are going by. Their argument is that the case was somehow flawed so they will just keep filing until one of them gets their case in front of one of the judges who will finally hear the case and truly hear it and get the "usurper" thrown out of office.

Those are their words not mine. It just scares me because they are so viscious and evil, and with Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh fanning them I truly fear for Pres. Obama's life.

Anonymous said...

Fear for O's life? Because some otherwise sane people are asking if the Constitution is being followed? I neither think or hope that O is ineligible, but I can't get my head around the fact that he continues to refuse to provide a long form certified birth certificate. He has provided a copy of a short form Hawaiian territory, but still refuses to allow the original to be viewed. Why?

Fact is, a short form Hawaiian live birth certificate was available to any child under the age of three at the time O received his. That alone does not prove place of birth.

It is a fact as reported in mainstream press articles that three of his Kenyan relatives say they were there when he was born--in Kenya! Once his candidacy became viable, they changed their story or no longer will comment.

The SC didn't rule on the facts, they ruled that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case. I would think that any citizen had standing in such a case, but I'm not a SC justice. All of this could be dealt with by the release of a long form birth certificate issued by a US state or territory, a document required by Federal Law to receive some benefits and to prove Native American ancestry, among other things. That is what is what O is spending 10's of thousands of dollars in legal fees to prevent for some reason. Why? I don't know but it doesn't necessarily make one crazy or homicidal to ask if the Constitution is being followed, does it? Ascribing evil intent to them is at least as crazy as their actions. Let's just ask that our Presidential Candidates provide PROOF of natural born citizenship BEFORE they are elected next time. Simple to do (as it would be after the fact--- so why won't he?)

Alex said...

Consider the discussion of Obama's citizenship status closed. This has gotten way off topic for some time now, so keep it relevant please. If you want to discuss the matter, Free Republic is that-a-way.

Anonymous said...

Alex i noticed a comment you left on another site where you called College Republicans "DSP" douchebags sans princple...you're wrong.

Co-Chair of the California College Republicans
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3373/3209332814_da52c71d2a.jpg?v=0

Former Co-Chair of the College Republican national committee
http://profile.ak.facebook.com/object3/500/37/l19153578662_7067.jpg

Mike said...

Alex - I just wanted to say thank you for writing such an eloquent piece. I have a close friend/family member who is going through this same struggle as I type this. I plan on writing the President and referencing your letter. Thanks again and as a civilian I appreciate your service and also observing our freedom of speech. -Mike M, KCMO

Mezzo SF said...

Two things:
1. Got a form-letter response from Sen. Feinstein on the IRR thing.
2. Did you see this on Stop Loss yet today??

Egy Azziera said...

First off we would like to congratulate you on your fine public speaking skills. It looks like those who said the Obama Administration would strike while the iron is hot may have been correct, and the Administration may be doing it in a way that does not require them to even get a vote in Congress.