Don’t Shackle Your Life To This Mess In Iraq

Light armored vehicle crewmen with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 fill their LAV with bottled water supplied by motor transportation Marines during a logpack on July 11, 2009, in Iraq's Ninewa province.
Photo by Sgt. Eric C. Schwartz

For every veteran of the Iraq War, this is a rough time. I know it is for me, and a lot of my buddies who also served there.

Stories about ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Sunni-backed terrorist group, dominate the media. These cowards are grinding Iraq into the sand: raping women, killing children, and beheading men as they go.

This is fresh meat for the media. Out come the dogs in talking head form, fighting for scraps on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. It's former president George W. Bush's fault. It's President Barack Obama's fault. We should go back. We shouldn't go back. It was all for nothing. Those poor, poor veterans fought and died for nothing.

What a crock of shit. All of it.

For every combat veteran out there, let me tell you something. Whatever you sacrificed, whatever you saw, whoever you lost (in theater or back home), that has nothing to do with the stuff going on today in Iraq. So far as we are concerned, the fate of the Iraqi people is in their own hands.

When you raised your right hand to serve the United States of America, did you say anything about running around in the deserts, swamps, or mountains of the world? Did you promise to save Iraq from Saddam Hussein? What about wearing MOPP gear for weeks at a time?

I don't think so. The words you spoke were about protecting and defending the Constitution. That's the point; it's an ideal we serve, not an outcome.

We don't pick and choose our wars any more than we pick and choose the guys in our platoon. Those larger questions are not meant for the eager 18-year-olds who fill the ranks of our combat units, nor should they be considered by the grizzled war vet after he returns home.

The personal and the international certainly seem to be intertwined, but that is a surface connection. Foreign affairs do not have the power to undermine, or reinforce, your service unless you let them.

And yet these questions arise, unbidden, from the back of our minds. How can they not? Don't your fists clench when you see the reports of the violence tearing across a country we worked so hard to set right? Mine do, and I'm the one writing this damn article.

We want to know what it all meant, however we define "it." We want a happy ending to the story of our service.

This is wishful thinking at its worst. Marine Gen. James Mattis makes a good argument that every war since the Civil War has been a strategic failure in some significant way. World War I set the stage for World War II. World War II --- supposedly about defeating totalitarian regimes --- left the Soviet Union in an even stronger position. The Korean War left a shattered nation split in half. And, of course, we all know about the Vietnam War.

In the long run, no war ever accomplishes its goals. Nations rise and fall --- nothing lasts forever. A combat veterans knows that better than anyone else. We have seen life carved out of a young man in bloody chunks. Death and decay shadows us all.

Sometimes we forget this after we come home. Sometimes the hard-earned lessons of war fade as we sag into the couch. After that we are ready to believe all this crap in the media, these convenient lies that try to take away our sense of self, of service, and of sacrifice.

Don't let the lies take hold. Don't give up control of your self worth. Remember the truth that is both liberating and frustrating, like many of the best things in life. Challenge yourself to make the most of this opportunity to reflect on your life.

For the dead, this ultimate sacrifice is justified by the people who loved them. What matters are the lives of friends and family since that moment, not the sadistic actions of people who never even knew their name.

For the living, we have to build a life greater than the guilt that haunts us. A life well-lived is a testament to the fallen, and to the military values we clutch after service. Duty, love, courage: These are jewels set in "a crown of iron and blood."

There is a scene at the end of “Saving Private Ryan” when Captain Miller tells Ryan, "Earn this." Retired Special Forces Col. Joe Felter recently used this to illustrate the importance of Memorial Day. He floored me, mostly because it was so obviously true. Just because it's Hollywood does not mean the sentiment isn't real.

Hold on to that every time you see something terrible about Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter. Your service is yours, for better or worse. You belong to the legacy of sacrifice and warrior love, and you are alive. That is the truth.

Earn this.

William Treseder works for BMNT Partners, a government-focused technology incubator in Silicon Valley. He served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan.


Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs put on leave an Atlanta-based administrator and reassigned the region's chief medical officer and seven other staff members while it investigates the treatment of a veteran under its care.

Joel Marrable's daughter discovered more than 100 ant bites on her father when she visited him in early September.

The daughter, Laquna Ross, told Channel 2 Action News: "His room had ants, the ceiling, the walls, the beds. They were everywhere. The staff member says to me, 'When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn't even alive, because the ants were all over him.'"

Read More Show Less
he amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returns to homeport at Naval Base San Diego on February 25, 2015. (U.S. Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Corwin Colbert)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A former U.S. Navy sailor was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for having sexual contact with a 14-year-old Oceanside girl in 2017, federal prosecutors in San Diego said in a statement.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach to whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.

After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump didn't wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.

Read More Show Less

That sound you're hearing is Army senior leaders exhaling a sigh of relief, because the Army has surpassed its recruiting goal for the year.

After failing to meet recruiting goals in 2018, the Army put the pedal to the metal and "did some soul searching," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, to ensure that they'd meet their 2019 goal. It must have paid off — the service announced on Tuesday that more than 68,000 recruits have signed on as active-duty soldiers, and more soldiers have stuck around than they expected.

Read More Show Less

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein transformed into the Cigarette Smoking Man from "The X-Files" on Tuesday when explaining why UFO enthusiasts should avoid storming the mythical Area 51 installation in Nevada.

"All joking aside, we're taking it very seriously," Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. "Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected. The people deserve to have our nation's secrets protected."

Read More Show Less