I watched a show on PBS the other night called "Tattooed Under Fire" about soldiers at, appropriately enough, Fort Hood getting ready to go to Iraq and after they returned 15 months later. It was a unique approach in that it showed their feelings about their experiences through their choice of skin art. I highly recommend that you see it. It will show in November. Check your local listings.
We read all the time about how 30% of Iraq returnees have PTSD. After seeing this show I'd bet that's a little optimistic. I'm scared for these people and for our society in the years to come.
In the heart of central Texas lies the city of Killeen--home to Fort Hood, America's largest military base. Across the street is River City Tattoo Parlor, a place where many of the war-bound and returning soldiers go under the needle, openly profess their patriotism, share their secrets and confess their deepest fears. TATTOOED UNDER FIRE looks at the unconventional work of tattoo parlor owner Roxanne Willis and gives a highly personal glimpse into the human and cultural cost of war.
Here's a preview. There are more previews here.
It is a dark and disturbing film from the soldiers' point of view and I highly recommend you see it. The tattoo folks, Killeen townspeople, weigh in with some wisdom from their point of view as well.
My hero in the film is Consuelo, 20, a member of a bridge company of engineers. She's in one of the preview vids prior to her deployment, all worried about the non-stop convoy policy that has gotten a lot of Iraqi kids and others run over. When she returns from Iraq she's really glad that she didn't run over anybody. She also says that she saw a lot of herself in the poor kids in Iraq. A poor kid herself from Los Tecomates, Jalisco, her mom paid a coyote to smuggle her into the U.S. Now she's working on her U.S. citizenship and looks at her Iraq service as the price she has to pay.
The massacre at Food Hood was a terrible reminder of the vulnerability and mental fragility of our forces currently engaged on two war fronts with the prospect of multiple tours. One could only imagine last week’s fatal event––young men and women recruits waiting for flu shots and filling out paperwork, nervous and anxious about their eminent deployment, when suddenly they are being shot at with an automatic weapon. They had no means to escape or defend themselves.
I've been thinking about this for days and this is likely to be the most politically incorrect thing I've ever said here.
I am absolutely appalled that a lone gunman with two handguns was able to get off 100 rounds in a crowd of supposedly ready-to-deploy-to-a-war-zone combat-trained soldiers.
They had no means to escape or defend themselves.
Horseshit. Granted, they were taken by surprise. In military parlance the technical term for that is an 'ambush'.
When we do it, the saying is "Ambush is murder, and murder is fun".
When they do it, the saying is "React quickly and assault the ambush. You may die in the attempt, but if you don't, you most surely will die where you are".
This was not a crowd of Christmas shoppers at a mall or a McDonald's full of people eating lunch. This was a crowd of supposed warriors. Were they all company clerks and truck drivers? Were there not some amongst them with the training, discipline, and the warrior instinct to attack that nutjob sonofabitch with whatever means were available? The shooter had to reload at least five or six times, and in my experience that takes two hands, a few seconds when he was vulnerable. A shout of 'follow me', a headlong rush, throwing furniture? SOMETHING? ANYTHING?
Maybe someone tried and died doing it. I don't know. What I do know is that the folks who died and were wounded went from being combat-ready soldiers to victims in a few moments of panic and terror, slaughtered like sheep in a pen.
The dead soldiers were given a memorial service as if they had given their all in battle. There won't be any Purple Hearts for them because they died from 'fratricide' or 'friendly fire', which is the absolute worst phrase in the world. It remains to be seen how the PTSD some of the survivors will surely have will be treated by Army propagandists and bean counters.
They should get all the benefits due any soldier, for they died and were injured in the war Bush and the neocons started against the people of the United States and the world.
Fixer and I have been saying for five years that Bush's War is a criminal act that will fuck this country up for generations. Sadly, we are more right after the Fort Hood incident than we even knew.
One more thing:
The Fort Hood shooting was the Army's fault as surely as 9/11 was Bush's. They had enough information on the shooter that they should have given him the boot. Instead, they promoted him to Major. Whether by omission or commission, bureaucratic intransigence, or because they did not wish to appear intolerant or were shorthanded, that yo-yo had no business counselling soldiers. Maybe they coulda had him issuing mattresses.
Got this via email from Kristin Fellows:
just saw your blog, gordon -- thanks very much for your comments on "tattooed under fire."
i'm impressed, you watch pbs and you checked out the website, itvs and the director's blog.
thanks for the plug,
(part of the TUF team)
Thank you, Kristin. I'm impressed too. We were on the 4th page of the Google. You waded through a lot of stuff to get to us and looked close enough to find my email. Glad to help.
I sent her this:
Thank you for the nice words. Thoroughness is our middle name. I was trying to get our maybe 300 readers to watch TUF as I think it's an important film, being a lightly tattooed veteran myself. Links are the way for folks to investigate on their own. If I get one or two other folks to see it, my post is a success.
I updated the blog post with your email. It was like an 'attaboy' and I can't pass that up!