Ten Years Gone: Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans On What It All Meant

Sunday, November 11, 2018
By Paul Martin

by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
ZeroHedge.com
Sun, 11/11/2018

A decade after the worst fighting overseas, five combat veterans put the Forever War and American civilian life into perspective…

Possibly the most poignant line of the 1984 breakout hit “19” by electronic musician Paul Hardcastle was the one it deliberately drove home with synthesized drumbeat repetition: “In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26. In Vietnam he was nineteen…nineteen.”

When this song hit the radio airwaves, much of the Vietnam veteran cohort—those who had seen the worst fighting in that war—had been home for a little more than a decade. They were in their early 30s now—building careers, raising families, and politically active. The war’s horrors and fallout began reemerging in national headlines and sympathetic Hollywood films, along with Agent Orange and PTSD. A page had turned, too, in the national consciousness. Americans were finally beginning to separate their anger at the government from the young men who fought its war. The mantra became internalized: never again.

“Never” did not mean never, of course, and 20 years after Hardcastle’s cult hit, Washington sent more than two million American men and women into wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the heaviest fighting occurring between 2003 and 2010. Many of those veterans are now more than a decade home—building careers, raising families, politically active. On this Veterans Day, TAC asked five of its regular writers to tell us in their words how they’ve come to terms with their own service and what they think of American society as the wars continue quietly, indefinitely, and off the national radar.

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Daniel Sjursen, U.S. Army officer (retired), served combat tours in Baghdad (2006-07) and Kandahar (2011-12)

The 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. The guns fell silent along the trench lines of Northern France. Some nine million men had already died in that hopelessly absurd and unnecessary war—yet on that day, finally, an armistice was called. In the decades that followed, all the combatant nations celebrated November 11 as Armistice Day. The beauty of the old holiday was this: it celebrated peace, not war; it did not seek to glorify the fighting men per se, but to extol the merits of ending an irrational war. It was thought, back in those gloriously naive days, that perhaps the great wars were at last behind us.

Of course they weren’t. The First World War led, soon enough, to the second, and, for Americans, on to Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. Recognizing the obsolescence of the old holiday, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower changed its name to Veterans Day. Though a realist at heart, I, as a veteran of a new generation of wars, still lament the sentiment and mourn the idealism of Armistice Day—if for no reason other than that my wars, the conflicts of the 21st century, may never end.

One hundred years after the guns fell silent on the Western Front, Veterans Day has morphed into yet another vacuous opportunity for the over-adulation of millions of veterans, without the least bit of actual contemplation on the nature of the wars they’ve been asked to fight. Nowadays, every NFL Sunday is little more than an excessive display of militarism, replete with fighter jets a flying and soldiers a marching—all surrounded by a stadium sized American flag. Observing these regular martial displays, one wonders if we even need a separate holiday for veterans anymore.

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