It’s true. I’m not making this up. Yes, I hear what you’re thinking: Where, pray tell, did I find this peacenik idea — some liberal bastion of the tree-hugging left? Actually, it’s a four-parter in the Army Times, and it should be read aloud into the Congressional Record. The president should have to read it in a Florida classroom. Every candidate should be forced to hear it read before debating the war.
Of course, none of that will ever happen; few politicians seem to belong to the “reading class” anymore. And since Faux News viewers tend to read very little to begin with, here’s an outline.
2nd Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment patrolled the city of Adhamiya for 15 months, their patience wearing thin as the tour was extended:
Anger motivated them as much as the mission. Anger made them fearless — and sometimes reckless. It made them not themselves…“You never really get over the anger,” said Staff Sgt. Robin Johnson, a member of Charlie’s scout platoon who had been especially close to Agami. “It just kind of becomes everything you are. You become pissed off at everything. We wanted to destroy everything in our paths, but they wanted us to keep building sewer systems and handing out teddy bears.”
Mind you, these soldiers weren’t loose cannons. They were the best America has to offer. One soldier had already
watched as his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Diaz, shot and killed a zip-tied Iraqi civilian. Wood turned Diaz in; the platoon sergeant was sentenced to eight years in jail and a dishonorable discharge, ending his 17-year Army career.
But as Iraq continued to get worse, the soldiers became pessimistic.
The Iraqi army would trash Sunni houses, take people into custody who hadn’t done anything wrong and forcefully demand bribes. While the number of attacks against civilian Iraqis declined, the number of attacks against (American soldiers) increased. (The platoon) no longer believed they were fighting for Iraq. They had, once, a long time ago. Before they had seen the Iraqi bodies with their heads dipped in acid, before the children tossed grenades at them. Now the locals refused even to acknowledge dead neighbors sprawled on their sidewalks…“This deployment, every patrol you’re finding dead people,” Newland said. “It’s like one to 12 a patrol. Their eyes are gouged out. Their arms are broken. We saw a kid who had been shot 10 to 15 times.”
The platoon responded by drawing even closer, forming the kind of tight bonds that only men under fire can know. They had started out idealistic about their mission, but as they took casualties, softer goals — like “hearts and minds,” or Iraqi freedom — became meaningless:
They busied themselves with a wounded Iraqi girl. The blast had killed three children and an Iraqi woman in homes nearby. “I don’t even care,” Spc. Armando Cardenas said. “I know that’s wrong, but they knew it was there. There’s no way they didn’t know it was there.” …DeNardi doesn’t believe Adhamiya was worth their loss. The Iraqis need to fight for themselves, he said, and he didn’t see that.
A horrifying suicide caused them to snap. The next day, these soldiers simply refused to fight.
The whole platoon…had taken sleeping medications prescribed by mental health that day…2nd Platoon had gathered for a meeting and determined they could no longer function professionally in Adhamiya…several platoon members were afraid their anger could set loose a massacre.
And what was their reward for not murdering innocent Iraqis?
After the members of 2nd Platoon had spent a year fighting for each other and watching their buddies die, battalion leaders began breaking up the platoon. …Then, they were all flagged: No promotions. No awards. No favorable actions.
Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps not, that the platoon was supposed to have returned by this time — but they had been extended an extra three months. They finally returned home to face horrifying problems. Male veterans have twice the suicide rate of nonveterans; some returned to find their marriages broken, while others fell into bottles.
None of the men of Charlie 1-26 will ever get away from Adhamiya completely. The memories of what they saw, did and endured will stay with them forever, as with any combat veteran.
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