Talking to a Former Soldier

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

While I was waiting at a local pharmacy for my medications, I met a former U.S. soldier. I saw this former soldier because his leg was in a cast and he was on crutches. He too was getting medications for the pain he had to endure because his knee was all busted up. Tom, his first name, told me that while running through a battle range as part of his training his leg gave out. When examined by the doctor, it was determined that the ligaments in his knee had been badly torn and as a result he could no longer run. Eventually he was told he could walk again, but because he could no longer run his days in the military were over, and so he would be dismissed from the army. He is 21 years old.

He felt kind of sad for this. It meant he would miss his buddies and would not be able to go with them overseas. I asked him where they were heading, and he replied, “Afghanistan.” “I guess God has a reason for why this has happened to me,” Tom said. “I think this is something that someday you may be glad it happened to you,” I replied. He obviously felt guilty about not being with them, and probably felt guilty about not going with them to watch their backs in Afghanistan. He told me he really looked forward to going. What I could not explain is that it is maybe just as well he will never go to Afghanistan. From too many sources that I know (especially journalists who have been there), the country is barely stable at best, and that the Taliban is more resurgent than ever.

Since the Taliban is protected and even armed by the Pakistani government, Afghanistan will never be stable. Worse, it means that the Taliban will be able to hit not only Afghan but American soldiers as well with impunity. Since the U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan War, we now have a total so far of 2323 American military war dead, and close to 20,000 have been wounded to severely wounded. Many American soldiers have been wounded not by just bullets, but by improvised explosive devices that either kill or so grievously wound soldiers that there is no way they can ever fight again. Those soldiers so maimed by these improvised explosive devices will need care and help for the rest of their lives. Many American soldiers will also have been incapacitated by the diseases that strike so many Afghans, and some of our soldiers will never fully recover from these diseases.

But just as equally concerning will be the post-traumatic stress disorder so many of our soldiers will suffer from this terrible guerrilla war. They will need years of treatment on this that will cost this country for a generation. I am very convinced that Tom’s buddies will suffer from all this, and I am sure Tom will feel guilt for what will happen to his army buddies because he was not there to watch their backs. In my view he should not feel guilty—if he is no longer physically able to be there for them then that is out of his control. In my view he has already served his country, and I wish him all the best in life.

Comments are closed.