Wounded GIs

On April 2, 2005, C-SPAN broadcast a program featuring interviews with seriously wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. These are the notes I took on it.

I’m watching Cpl. Michael Oreskovic, U.S. Army, 23 years old, a good-looking, absolutely fine, brave, young man, a bit cocky, the kind of person who makes you realize what a great country this is, who lost his left arm above the elbow in Iraq. He demonstrates his high-tech prosthesis, which is run by using the muscles in his upper arm. He wants to stay in the army. “I was one of the best shooters in my unit. I loved it, I loved everything about it, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.” But even if he’s allowed to stay in the army, he will of course never be in a combat unit again.

I could handle people undergoing this kind of loss if it was necessary, something justified in the national defense to defeat an enemy. But most of our casualties have been from roadside bombs, losses suffered because the enemy has had the free run of the country, because we, instead of using our forces to defeat the enemy, have been using our forces to nursemaid the Iraqis into a democracy which will remain forever vulnerable to the enemy we haven’t yet defeated.

Oreskovic is very articulate and very up on the war mission: “The enemy just want to kill us, they’ll kill your wives, your children, they just want to kill us, not for anything we’ve done, but for what we are, that we give people the choice to decide how to live, and that’s what makes us human, and the enemy want to take that away from us.”

That’s all fine. But how is driving up and down mined roads in Iraq protecting America from attack? He also mentioned that the American people don’t back the military in Iraq as much as they once did, and a lot of his Army buddies are bothered by that. There’s a definite political consciousness among the GIs that the liberals are against them.

Oreskovic decided to join the army when he was 11 years old, at the time of the battle of Mogadishu, when the dead Army Ranger was dragged through the streets.

The next interviewee is Maj. Tammy Duckworth, an Asian-American (or perhaps half-Asian) woman in the Illinois National Guard, sitting next to her husband, also in the military. Both of them are about 36 years old, older than most of their fellow soldiers, who are in their early 20s. He was surprised when she was deployed to Iraq and he wasn’t. The camera was on her body and head, which looked fine, not her torso, and I was wondering what injuries she had.

Asked if she wanted to go to combat, she answered: “Not that I wanted to for its own sake, but I felt it wouldn’t be fair not to take the same chances as my male colleagues.” So she became a helicopter pilot.

I’m blown away by this. On one hand, what Maj. Duckworth is saying is the essence of American fairness and uprightness. On the other hand, there is something insane about the idea of a woman’s even being put in such a position, i.e., being put in the armed forces, where her notion of “fairness” would require that she take a combat position alongside men. But this is what America has become. All the excellent, brave, competent, “ready” qualities of Americans, that make us what we are, are still there, but now those qualities are serving and operating within a value system that is sick and evil, a value system that places women in military situations where they can be blown up by enemy rockets and treats that as a “normal” thing to do.

Maj. Duckworth is smart, articulate, very confident, all-American. Then the interviewer asks her how she was hurt. She begins explaining how she was piloting her helicopter and crew over Baghdad late in the day when insurgents began firing at them from the ground and “got lucky,” a rocket propelled grenade hit the belly of the copter and exploded between her legs. As Maj. Duckworth is speaking, the camera pulls back from her, showing her entire body where she’s sitting in her chair. There is no right leg, and there is a prosthetic left leg. The whole time she had been talking, she had seemed completely intact and “up” psychologically, you wouldn’t have known that anything was wrong with her. But all the time she was sitting there with two legs gone.

The interviewer asks her to describe her injuries.

She lost her right leg fairly high, she lost her left leg below the knee, and there were very serious injuries to her right arm, which had to be reconstructed through very advanced metal reconstruction and grafting techniques.

She wants to continue serving in the Illinois Guard Why? “The explosion didn’t change who I am. I believe we should all give something back to our community. I have a bond with my fellow soldiers.” She wants to keep flying, whether military or civilian. But how can a person without legs be a pilot?

“Are you angry at anything?” the C-SPAN interviewer asks.

“I’m alive, what’s to be angry about? I could be dead. Between having my legs and not having them, I’d rather have them, but they’re gone and you just have to move forward.”

She and her husband seem completely calm and matter-of-fact about her injuries. How can the husband stand that this happened to his wife, to a woman? Does he still think that women should serve in the armed forces, which leads inevitably (as in his wife’s case) to women serving in combat? The question doesn’t come up. Again, we’re seeing this bizarre new American thing, combining excellent American virtues on one side with feminism and sexual equality and everything that that means on the other. So I both admire these people very much, and I utterly oppose what they’re doing and what they stand for, the normalization of women in combat, one of the sickest things in the history of the world.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2005 09:07 AM | Send

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