Well, it’s finally happened. Our family is finally personally involved. We’re finally feeling the loss millions of families have felt because of the interminable, costly and absolutely unnecessary wars we’ve inserted ourselves into in the Middle East. Political wars of old men killing our young men.
Casey is - was - Barb’s nephew. Son of one of her brothers, 41-years-old, living in Hamilton, Montana. I say “was” because he’s gone now. Suicide. At 41. A Marine. A tour in Afghanistan. A tour in Iraq. No visible signs of physical wounds suffered in the battles he fought. As in the picture, just another healthy-looking, animal-loving, typical Montana guy in the prime of life. With PTSD.
“No visible wounds.” But a head full of demons caused by experiences no one his age - or any age - should have had to endure. Apparitions, noises, physical sensations, fear, memories. Many, many memories. Of things none of us have had to face if we haven’t shared his battlefields.
Casey knew his illness. Probably, early on, knew what it would eventually do to him. We know that because, in his last days, he took to Facebook to remind everyone he knew that June was Post Traumatic Stress Awareness Month. Bet you didn’t know that. I certainly didn’t.
Casey was trying to both inform and warn all of us of the extremely deadly disease PTSD really is. What he was experiencing. Though loved and cherished by his extended family, that wasn’t enough. Without extensive - and expensive - psychiatric care, nothing would be - could be - enough. Nothing.
And, in that, our government that sent him into those battlefields failed him. It wanted his participation. It appealed to his sense of duty. It clothed and equipped his body. It gave him free transportation to the foreign lands important to none of us as a nation. It gave him a rifle and all the ammunition he needed. And it sent him out to kill. To kill other “Casey’s.”
I’ve strongly opposed both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the gitgo. I’ve never found the American “security interests” so often referred to by our politicians. Just the damned oil. In years of thinking about it, I’ve not found a single justification for them when balanced with the trillions of dollars of treasure spent. And the thousands of “Casey’s” who’ve died in them, become deeply scarred physical remnants of what they once were or, like Casey, one of the walking wounded who finally succumbed to his wounds. The human leftovers who’ve been largely failed by the same government that called them.
With no clear vision of expected outcome, no national idea of what “victory” would look like, no well-defined goal to be reached regardless of cost - in both dollars and lives - we’ve blundered on for more than two decades.
We’ve tasked one - and possibly two - generations with an impossible job. To bring American “democracy” to countries that don’t have it and, from all indications, don’t want it. We’ve asked them to overcome more than a thousand years worth of warring, killing, hating. We’ve asked our young people to bring our “peace” to peoples who are conditioned to living their own ways - the old ways.
Now, we have a Commander-In-Chief” who hasn’t any more realistic “plan” to achieve an impossible peace than his predecessors. If he even thinks of those hellish places. He’s told us he “knows more about how to run the military” than those in uniform that actually do run it. We’re also told the latest person with professional advice on how to conduct wars - his Defense Secretary - is the latest name on the “I don’t trust you anymore” list.
How much treasure - how many lives - are we going to throw into this pyrrhic Hell before we realize there is no there there? That no amount of sacrifice - national or personal - will achieve a desired result even close to the expense? How much longer before we realize we are a nation decaying from within because we have squandered the means to restore it to the “beacon on the hill” seen by the rest of the world?
Just imagine what our infrastructure, our cities, our lives would look like if we had spent as much on them as we have thrown down the ratholes that are Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine the accomplishments of the “Casey’s” we’ve lost to these quagmires if they had been allowed to live and contribute to a healthy, vibrant nation.
Our family has lost our Casey. For his parents, that will be a hole-in-the-heart they will take to their own graves. For his extended kin, we’re left with memories - only memories - of someone we knew and cherished.
Thousands of other families have lost their “Caseys” They, too, are left with some old pictures, a few mementoes, maybe an empty room. And a hole in the ground.
They, too, are left with the question: “How much more, how many more, will be destroyed before we regain our national senses?”
Old men’s political wars paid for by the young.