Stories From The Front

by Cindy Sheehan

Lisa from Washington State writes:

My son in law in Iraq said they are being pressured round the clock to re-enlist or face stop loss. They are being offered $30,000 signing bonus, tax free and told if they don't re-enlist, they are going to be stop-lossed and get zero dollars. They are pushing the troops round the clock and Mark only got 3 hours sleep in 48 hours and when they get back, they are faced yet again with re-enlisting. Mark said many guys are scared and signing up and their families at home are very upset. (with good reason) We really need to push our media and congressmen to expose the horrible way our troops are being treated.

Lietta, also from Washington State writes:

Yes, I have been trying since January 05 to get the word out regarding my own 2 loved ones and the soldiers in their division. Both served in Iraq , and their division, 1st Armored, was the first to be 'extended' so they served 15 months in Iraq , April 03–July 04. They came back to their bases in August 04. A mere 5 months later, Jan 05, their division was told they were under orders to redeploy to Iraq and Stop Lossed and would redeploy in Fall 05. And I have been trying to call attention to the 'Retention' practices ever since.

March 05, it was time for both to make decision to re-enlist. As already under orders to redeploy; as already under Stop Loss; their choices = 1) don't re-enlist but you will wind up in Iraq anyway under Stop Loss or 2) re-enlist and while you'll still wind up in Iraq under Stop Loss, at least you'll have the attractive bonus being offered.

The point is that the 'Retention' rate that is being touted as demonstrative of soldier's fervor and good faith in the war is another deception being foisted on the media and public. Closer to the truth of the situation is that one they are in, they cannot get out and it is entrapment from the front end with deceptive recruitment practices, again at re-enlistment time with the threat of deployment to Iraq under Stop Loss, again when contract ends and they are kept in and deployed via Stop Loss. What continues to be called an 'all voluntary military' has become an 'involuntary' military through the use strategies of deception and legal maneuvering for which there seems to be no remedy in the Stop Loss.

Tia from Baltimore writes (her stepson was KIA in Iraq):

But I will never forget one thing: the day we dropped David off for boot camp – the day his father and I first met the recruiter – the recruiter put out his hand, smiled at me, shook my hand and said "you'll never have to worry about him again." I was shocked. I can only speculate what this person was telling David.

These are not isolated stories from the illegal occupation but they are illustrative of what is happening to our young people who thought they were doing the right and honorable thing by enlisting in the military. This is an immoral war that our troops never should have been sent to in the first place, and once they are there and have done their time, it is very difficult for them to get out of the distant mental desert and come home to their loved ones.

Not only are the backend policies of retention shady, but the front-end policies of recruiting our vulnerable youth are often downright unethical. Few citizens in our country (I know I didn't) realize that an enlistment contract is only binding on the recruit. Once the recruit raises his/her right hand and swears allegiance to the government, that recruit becomes the property of Uncle Sam and is bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ethics, promises, and moral correctness often fly out the window as servitude, hardship, and heartache fly in.

The only recruiting story I know by heart, and can effectively comment on, is my son Casey's. I have heard too many similar stories, however. When he was recruited in May 2000, he was promised the moon to get him to join, and he ultimately got an early grave. He was promised a $20,000 signing bonus: he received $4500 and was told that he could use the rest for college. Casey wanted to be a deacon in the Catholic Church, so when he enlisted in the Army, he was promised he could be a Chaplain's Assistant: don't believe the Army Band stories, either. When he got to boot camp, he was told that his promised specialty wasn't open, and he had the choice of being a Humvee mechanic or a cook. His recruiter told him he could finish college while in the military, he could never even get approval to take one class. All of these broken promises mean nothing to me. One does, however. After Casey enlisted he knew I was upset. He told me, "Mom, you don't have to worry, Sgt. (I forget his name) told me that since I scored so high on the ASVAB (military competency) test, I will never see combat, even if there is a war. I will only be in a support role." I can still hear his voice saying those exact words to me. Those words chilled me to the bone then, and have haunted me since 9/11. First of all, because I thought Casey would be sent to fight terrorists (and "terrorists") wherever they might be, and I could see George and his warmongering band of neocons rushing us into a crazy invasion of Iraq . My premonition came true and Casey was KIA 04/04/04 : a mere 5 days after his unit arrived in Sadr City , Baghdad : IN COMBAT. The most troubling thing is, though, that some recruiters are still promising young people that they won't have to go to Iraq if they sign up. I am being told that all the time by young people who talk to the multi-level marketers working towards their bonuses…oops, I mean military recruiters.

As long as our young people are being lied to and used so dishonorably in an unjust invasion and occupation of another country; as long as they are fighting for a corrupt government and still without the proper equipment, food, training, or leadership; as long as moms are having to hold bake sales to buy their sons body armor; as long as our soldiers are being held against their wills long after they have done their duty; as long as they are being sent to kill innocent people; military service should be opposed. Let's affirm life in the fullest for everybody: the unfortunate, uncounted people living Iraq who are "acceptable" collateral damage to the war hawks, and our own indispensable loved ones. The only way to support our troops is to bring them home from this mess – now.

The American public and Congress need to hear more stories from the front. The tragedy and atrocities of this occupation need to be in the forefront of every American's mind, so there can be an uprising of peace. If you have a story similar to the ones I have told, please forward them to me. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh) would like to put these stories, now engraved only in our hearts, into the Congressional Record. Thank you.

* Information on the Homeward Bound Bill.

July 13, 2005

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04 She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.

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