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Wednesday, July 06, 2005 

A Soldier Speaks

Virgil Butler is a former Army Ranger who spent years doing America's dirty work and has seen the horrors of war at close range. He wrote to us a little while ago, relating much of the story he tells here, and I wanted to share it with our site visitors. Butler talks about his own experience, that of a young man close to him recently recruited for the National Guard, and the differences between them.

I have found it interesting that, even in this "red state" where I live (rural Arkansas), I have yet to find a single solitary soul who supports this war. And especially not the vets. Those of us who have lived and survived combat, killed and seen our buddies die, know all too well the horrible sacrifice that war is and that there is absolutely nothing glorious about it. We also recognize the fact that really nobody is the "hero" the media, the military, and the administration make them out to be. Most "heroes" who are awarded the highest medals are awarded them posthumously, and the rest will tell you that there was nothing brave about what they did. They will tell you, as will I, that they were scared shitless, and doing all they could not to die.

I still have nightmares, even though I got out 15 years ago. Lately they have become much more frequent. I finally watched Black Hawk Down last week. One of those guys was a friend. I can't tell you how hard it was for me to watch that. And I haven't had a single good night's sleep since where I wasn't sleepwalking in a nightmare, coming under fire. Hell, I am almost afraid to fall asleep anymore anyway. Too many nightmares. Tired of waking up on the floor after tripping over something, or outside with a knife hunting sentries to cut their throats. I receive psychiatric care, including medication, for all of this, having been diagnosed with PTSD.

I also pay for this on my own, receiving private care and shouldering the entire financial burden, even though I haven't had a steady job since November of 2002. The one time I talked to the VA about getting help, they told me that they might be able to work me in about six months later.

I saw a man in my doctor's office who had taken his granddaughter in for care because his son was wounded in Iraq and couldn't do it himself, having lost his right leg at the hip and his right elbow. The man told me that his son received the same answer I had when he tried to get help from the VA, so I decided that I wouldn't even pursue that course and possibly take away time and resources from someone like the man’s son, who obviously needed help even more than I did.

If we can't even take care of the veterans that we now have, then how can this already overstretched system do anything but fail those who have put everything on the line for this country? I am completely disgusted at the lack of care given to veterans once they are no longer of value on the battlefield.

Laura, my other half, has an only son who was duped into joining the National Guard when he was 17 (though he turned 18 in December). She obviously is quite upset about this and wants him out and certainly not sent to Iraq. He has completed boot camp and goes off to AIT the 6th of July. His is an armored unit, and he lives in Shreveport, LA. She has been writing letters to all of our representatives, writing letters to the editors of papers, signing petitions, and generally fighting to stop this before they send her only son into battle for this illegal and immoral war. She can't even talk about the possibility of it without breaking into tears.

The poor kid is only now starting to realize the enormity of his mistake and that of his father for signing those damn papers and believing the lies the recruiter told them. The recruiter actually told them that National Guard troops wouldn't be sent to Iraq, even though at that very moment there were thousands of them over there. That's just how ignorant Laura’s son and his father were about what was really going on and why that recruiter was able to get him signed up with promises of a great career and college.

At first her son believed everything the military told him, and it is still hard to break through that. He is 18, after all, and what do we know, since he believes he has the "inside line" through what the military tells him, which is so very different from what we tell him. But he is starting to listen. He watched Fahrenheit 911 a couple of months ago, had a few long talks with his mother about what I went through and still go through, and now he just wants out. He believes that even if he survives physically, he will "go crazy."

There's a very wide difference between the training I received as an elite Airborne Ranger and what little he has received as Army National Guard. Add to that the fact that I was brought up in an abusive home environment, raised rough in the Ozarks in desperate poverty so severe that I was beaten if I wasted a bullet by missing an animal I was hunting for the family's supper. I worked a full-time night job catching chickens at 14 to help support my younger siblings, in addition to going to school and graduating. Looking at this kid's relatively easy city life playing Nintendo and basketball, there is no comparison between our respective backgrounds.

I was a mean, tough, trained killer that took my first deer at the age of eight, whereas this kid is loving and compassionate. He doesn't want to kill any innocent Iraqi women and children. I tortured people for my country without flinching during the "dirty wars" in South America, but we are afraid that he will come home mentally damaged from seeing people die—innocent or not, friends or not—even if he survives without being physically wounded or killed.

Laura’s son is also one of the ones who would have been kicked out of the military years ago - dropped out of high school, didn't show up for a drill, etc. But they want that fresh blood in there so badly that they are lowering requirements, taking basically anyone that can hold a gun. All that's doing is getting even more kids killed. That makes this situation even worse.

We had a definite beginning and end to the war I was in, whereas the Bush administration refuses to even set any sort of timetable for withdrawal or ending this nightmarish quagmire we are in now. It's just not the same, any of it. Iraq was no threat to this country, and when you take into account that this was a pre-emptive war based on choice and supported by lies, being waged with a complete disregard for the troops and the poor Iraqi civilians unlucky enough to be caught in the middle, how can anyone justify what is going on over there?

What mother would want her son or daughter sacrificed for a war that makes fat cats fatter, creates more animosity towards our country, undermines our national security and increases our debt to the point that there is now what is being called a "birth tax" of $150,000 on every child born in this country?

It certainly makes no sense when the reason for the violence is our mere presence there. How long should we continue to "stay the course" and allow more of our young people to die and be maimed for life in a war that is so utterly indefensible? How long before enough of the American people demand those responsible for this war be held accountable for their actions? How many more of America's sons and daughters must die before we scream, "ENOUGH!”

War is hell, and the best way to "support the troops" is to get them the hell out of there. I feel the need to do something, now. Every American calling themselves "patriotic" and waving flags everywhere should feel the same and take action to change things. Not later—now.

Virgil Butler, Pine Ridge, AR

 posted by ukiyo1  # 11:38 PM  
I agree with everything you have stated. This is a GREAT country However, Its shocking how many people have no clue as to the truth about this war..I asked my neighbor the other day how she felt about it and her comment was... I do not follow it!!! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO!!! I do not get how so many seemingly bright Americans forget how this war was really started. OR How so many lives are being lost. WE WERE LIED TO!!! Period!!! We were led into a war for all the wrong reasons! WMD.. WHATEVER. If this was truly about Hussen or Bin Laden it should have been handled during the FIRST GULF war!! This administrtion had agenda before they were even elected!!

If I can help you in your cause keeping your step son home please let me know.. Ill do what I can. Write letters sign petitions.. :)

Thank you for your service to your country. I'm just sorry they have treated you so poorly in return.

M Clark
The man tried to help his country, he's been through so much for the sake of America's freedom, I can't believe he has to pay for everything himself. Soldiers are being used just like that and then thrown away for a pointless war, it disgusts me. The military lies to young people that don't know anything, to protect them and their families from terrorists? What the hell. If you're going to get teenagers involved in a war, at least tell them the truth! Being young doesn't mean being stupid. I myself am only 18 years old, but I have a mind of my own and I try to keep myself informed about what goes on... and I don't even live in the US, I live in Canada. The United States are a wonderful country, I plan on moving there one day. I don't believe that the government alone can ruin the reputation of such a powerful nation, there will always be people like me with a more open spirit, who will trust the americans themselves for who they are, not the government for what they want to do with the power they have. Thousands of american soldiers are being used, lied to and killed all the time, I honestly hope it ends soon before they don't have any more country to protect. The strength of a country doesn't come from the people who rule over it, it comes from the people. I know I wouldn't want to fight in an army if I didn't have a clue why I'm doing it. But they don't have a choice. They can either get their own families killed by doing nothing, or getting innocent families killed by doing something. No matter what they do, they know people will die because of them, I can't even come close to imagining how painful that must be. To think that the source of their motivation is nothing more than a lie, it hurts. I don't know half of what there is to know about all this, but I know more than a lot of people my age, because I love the states even though I've been judged and insulted by people for that. I understand why all those soldiers want to protect their country. I'm an american at heart even though I was born here in Quebec. I can't wait for Bush's term to end, I hope the next president will be a honest one.

I support the american soldiers, not for the cause they are fighting for, but for what's in their hearts. Every single one of them has feelings, and a story, and every soldier is precious, they have more courage and determination than I will ever have.

...I'm sorry I talk way too much.
...and please pardon my english, my native language is french.

I too am a Vet. I saw no battles, but was injured by the military anyway. And in talking with other vets about the wait times for VA medical care, have decided to not pursue it. 6 months to be seen as an amputee is incredulous. So my poor Shoulder, knee and back pain are far down on the list. Thank you to the US Government for taking care of me when i took care of your soldiers for 7 yrs.

I hope that more and more young people are disuaded from military service, until such time as we get a non war mongering Commander in Chief. I know that i will do my best to get the word out to the kids in my home town. My wish is for you all to do the same.
It really saddens me as well to see our soldiers being used as pawns for someone's sick game (if I may use the expression). I love the USA, and the reasons it was founded. It was built upon Godly (yes, big "G") biblical principals, even though some chose not to follow them. I used to believe almost everything the media said about the war, like a big, dumb sheep. After hearing things about 9-11 that didn't fit what what the media said was true, I found myself very, very, disillusioned and angry. I investigated the claims myself and found that the whole 9-11 and war with Iraq was a lie, apart from the "Farenheit 9-11" movie had to say. No WMD to be found, and Osama vanishes like a ghost, yet they can find little Saddam in a hole in the middle of nowhere just in time for Chiristmas?!? I'm not a liberal by any stretch ofthe imagination, nor am I a neo-con, communist, socialist or any other "ist". My hope is that the American people really wake up and with one voice and demand our leader to come clean and stop lying to us and be the leader he is suppposed to be, someone who is for the people, EVERYONE, and not the interestes of the wealthly alone. As for the vet and vets who have given their lives to the service of our country, my heart is with you. You should never be treated as a number or be denied medical treatment. 6 months wait is absurd. I pray that the stepson of the vet who wrote will be safe and get out if he can.
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