Broken by This War
by Stacy Bannerman
March 03, 2007
I was folding fliers for a high school workshop on nonviolence when my husband, a mortar platoon sergeant with the Army National Guard 81st Brigade, walked into my office and said, “I got the call.”
We hadn’t talked about the possibility of him being deployed for months, not since President Bush had declared, “Mission accomplished.” But I knew exactly what he meant; I didn’t know then what it would mean for us.
We weren’t prepared, and neither was the Guard. The Guard sent him into harm’s way without providing some of the basic equipment and materials, such as global positioning systems, night vision gear, and insect repellant, that he would rely on during his year-long tour of duty at LSA Anaconda, the most-attacked base in Iraq, as determined by the sheer number of incoming rockets and mortars, which averaged at least five per day.
Unlike active duty military, the National Guard had no functional family support system or services in place. While the Guard was scrambling to get it together, my husband was already gone, and I was alone, just months after we had moved to Seattle. It is the soldiers, their families, and the people of Iraq that pay the human costs. The tab so far: more than 3,000 dead U.S. troops, tens of thousands of wounded, over half a million Iraqi casualties, roughly 250,000 American servicemen and women struggling with PTSD, and almost 60,000 military marriages that have been broken by this war.
Twenty-four hours after Lorin boarded the plane for Iraq, I hung a blue star service flag–denoting an immediate family member in combat–in the front window. Then I closed the blinds, hoping to keep the harbingers of death at bay. They still got in, through the phone, the Internet, the newspaper, and the TV.
Each week, I heard of a friend’s husband or son: wounded, maimed, shot, hit, hurt, burned, amputated, decapitated, detonated, dead. A glossary of pain. I checked icasualties.org all the time, cursing and crying as the numbers rose relentlessly, praying that Lorin wouldn’t be next.
On January 11, 2007, the Pentagon discarded the time limit that prevented Guard members and Reservists from serving more than twenty-four total months on active duty for either the Iraq or Afghan wars. The Pentagon’s announcement came in the wake of President Bush’s decision to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
The escalation contradicts the advice of top U.S. military officials. Although the majority of Americans are opposed to the “surge,” most members of Congress are reluctant to block the supplemental appropriations request that will fund it, claiming that they don’t want to abandon the troops. Congress has abandoned the troops for nearly four years.
It is the soldiers, their families, and the people of Iraq that pay the human costs. The tab so far: more than 3,000 dead U.S. troops, tens of thousands of wounded, over half a million Iraqi casualties, roughly 250,000 American servicemen and women struggling with PTSD, and almost 60,000 military marriages that have been broken by this war.
It was hard to reconnect after more than a year apart, and the open wound of untreated PTSD made it virtually impossible. Lorin is still the best evidence I have of God’s grace in this world, but we just couldn’t find our way back together after the war came home.
Stacy Bannerman is the author of “When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind.” She is a member of Military Families Speak Out, www.mfso.org, and can be contacted at her website, www.stacybannerman.com.
Read all of Stacy’s article here.