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I never felt angry until I went home on leave.After hours spent with my deeply supportive and loving family, I would sometimes find myself retreating to a secluded spot to stare at the wall and clench various muscles. Perhaps a part of my reaction was that, in my mind, I had no reason to be angry.
My time in Afghanistan was defined by walking back and forth from our gunpit to the FOB DFAC, fighting the bureaucratic hydra that is Army ammunition management, and hearing the most soul-chilling stories related in casual conversation over a cup of terrible coffee. Why did I feel anything except relief that I was finally out of theater?
In the Army, there are many forms of strange currency, but one of the most potent is our stories. When I once again switched jobs following my redeployment, the soldiers, NCOs and I must have spent the first week doing almost nothing but swapping stories, some of combat, but most of standard-issue Army lunacy. It was a way not only of establishing credibility, but of building a relationship; a relationship built on the fact that we were all members of the initiated – we were a community.
All of us knew that whatever story we told, it would be accepted at face value by the listener. The tale of a late-night rocket finding its way into the window of an Afghan guard tower, along with the following discovery of a fifth dismembered hand and the realization that there were several more than two bodies in the wreckage, did not trigger any deep-seated political sentiment or speculation on the longevity of the war. That wasn't the point of the story.
This raises the question of just what exactly is the point of a war story. Why was that interpreter shot through the throat by the woman she was interrogating? Why did that Hellfire missile not detonate when it hit the fleeing insurgent in the small of the back?
Perhaps a better question to ask is just why do we, as a society, insist on searching for absolute meaning in stories about war. Maybe it is our expectation as a culture that war is the ultimate coming-of-age story that contributes to this. Sometimes our desire to apportion blame is what does it; the politically aware tend to extrapolate vast policy criticisms from personal stories.
Then again, it could also be the fact that most war stories Americans hear are neatly tied up with a Hollywood bow. Whatever the timbre of the audience, their pre-conceived opinions always tend to mold the reaction, regardless of the original experience that was trying to be communicated.
This was the fundamental difference I realized while at home. The questions about the war from well-meaning friends, the concerned and sympathetic looks – how was I to say anything except "I was in a pretty quiet area, I didn't see much."
These people weren't members of my tribe, and their reactions were unpredictable. There was no shared understanding of experience, and this made it extremely difficult to communicate the knowledge and memories that I had acquired either first or second-hand during my time at war.
I'm unsure what they could have been reasonably expected to do in order to put me at ease, however I do know this from my experience as a frequent listener to stories of violence – the most important thing to really, truly listen to a war story is an attentive and empathetic ear.
Liam Parker is an active duty 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. His recent time in Afghanistan was spent in support Operation Resolute Support and Operation Freedom's Sentinel, during which time he was most impressed by the number of ice cream flavors available and the quality of gyms in-theater. This article represents his own personal views, which are not necessarily those of the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."