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I don't have a clever title for this post.

The death notifications this week have been falling like a badly-aimed mortar barrage - almost randomly, yet damn close.

Several in our little milblog world have been singed by close impacts. or heard the whizz of jagged metal as it zings by, overhead. I sent this note to one of them.

I know how it feels.

And the sense of helplessness that goes with it.

Heh. In the day, whenever I heard civilians talk about how easy military families have it, I just remember those days in 1968-9 and mutter in my little lizard brain, "F**k you, you clueless 'tard."

Cops and firemen's families deal with this, too, of course.

But it just sucks to sit and wait. Especially when there's a spate of notifications. The movie We Were Soldiers came close to catching what it's like to be in the unit family when casualties hit. But only close.

I found out when I did my career - in many respects, it's easier to be the one deployed, because, if nothing else, you have the illusion of more control.

Like I said on the blog - hug the kids, they're better'n margaritas, anyway.

Mom and I used to sit in her bed and watch the 10 O'clock news and then Johnny Carson (well, I got to watch the first half-hour if it was a school night).

I know there's not much we can do from this remove - but if there is... let us know, 'k?

Cheers,

John

I'm not posting this to show what a sensitive guy I am. Quite the contrary.

I have a naked political reason for doing so. And a rather specific audience in mind.

And in this regard, I am *not* a chickenhawk. I've been here, done this - and gotten the telegram. And I *know* how that telegram changed my family (and that was only a wounding, not a death). Yet I went ahead and did it to my mother, at least without the telegram.

But however painful this is for military families - we did know it went with the territory.

And it really sucks for those who lose the game of chance that is the combat calculus.

But the pain of the families is *not* a reason to quit. Because if that were the case, then we should never start.

Any more than the loss of a fireman is reason to pull back from fighting fires.

Or the death of a cop to stop enforcement of the laws.

Passion and emotion make for awful policy, however good a movie they may make.

Certainly, assessments are in order. And one can change policy to prevent reckless carnage.

But the mere fact that military families are in pain, well, that, in and of itself, isn't a good enough reason for stopping. That requires a more sober assessment. Of ends and means. Long term goals, vice short term costs.

And it isn't always easy. But don't let your passion, or, rather, compassion, rule policy decisions.

Inform them, certainly. Be determinants? No.

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The death notifications this week have been falling like a badly-aimed mortar barrage - almost randomly, yet damn close.

Several in our little milblog world have been singed by close impacts. or heard the ...
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Another Kind of "Waiting" from Fuzzilicious Thinking on June 1, 2007 11:19 AM

John wrote a lovely post about when a loved one is deployed and the homefront is waiting for the casualty notifications they know are imminent, and how the pain and suffering of the homefront should figure in prosecution of a war. But even more power... Read More

15 Comments

sensitive? Perhaps but there's steel hidden in you. And you don't hug. Nice post btw. Comparing to firemen makes it easier for civs to see I think. One thing I have been wondering sort of in the back of my mind is helicopters. Bill might be a better source you know. If he wonders in that is. All the same ever since the very start of this war i've heard a lot of deaths and injuries by shot down and failed helicopters. And it's gone on and on. Is it just because it's semi-sensational or are helicopters really doing so badly? Maybe this is one area compassion can drive a reduction we actually have some good control of. Long term anyway.
 
Trias – Your speculation on the sensationalism of the chopper crashes is accurate. I can tell you that anybody that had to get anywhere in Iraq would take a chopper over a convoy any day. Remember that in peacetime, aircraft do sometimes fall out of the sky and experience an unintentional contact with the ground. In wartime, you still have all that, plus an enemy that wants you to fall out of the sky. The bad guys sensationalize the chopper crashes more than their convoy attacks precisely because they are not nearly as successful at bringing down aircraft of any type as they are at planting IEDs. John – Your analogy of a badly-aimed mortar barrage is apropos. Every mortar barrage I experienced was a few wild, random impacts. The bad guys knew they only had about 5 minutes before the Apaches showed up so they would shoot-and-scoot from the bed of pickup trucks.
 
Trias: lots of expensive, heavy equipment. think in terms of safety controls in place in the construction industry, then increase the operating tempo from "working day" to "almost continuous". i echo Oldloadr on John's mortar attack analogy, but i would take it even one step further. i would even make the comparison to a well planned and executed mortar attack. when we are properly prepared, with proper protections in place, a mortar attack can be nothing more than an exciting blur of noise of fury, signifying nothing. but it is an indicator that i have secured my position out past RPG range, and maybe even past sniper range. and when the bad guy increases the caliber, that's a good thing because it means i have pushed him even further back. every mortar attack i took, i smiled, and told the S2 to keep track of the size. i would have been positively delighted if i could have gotten bad guys back so far that they had to resort to flinging a FROG at me. cuz that means he needs time, and a crew, and exposure to our systems, and that means we can snuff them in nicely pre-packaged bundles.
 
Heh. The mortar analogy is being pushed into a whole new shape. MajMike is exactly correct - and, in a sense, the car bombings and IEDs, etc, are an adaptive version of the same phenomenon, to which we have to adapt. But I was just referring to the ping ping ping of the death notices, and how they arrive. Interesting where the metaphor took us.
 
Good assessment, Big Guy. When I got back from Desert Storm and finally made it home to see my parents, the first thing my mom said was, "don't ever do that again." I hugged her, looked her in the eyes, and said, "mom, this is what I do." Her reply - "I know; I just really don't like this part." Not bad for someone who had never been there. We don't have to like this part, but we still have to do it. God Bless the soldiers and the families who understand the cost of sacrifice and continue to pay the price. ML - the "other" Major Mike.
 
I agree. Your analogies are good ones, comparisons of police and fire fighters. Often the avoidance of present pain can lead to greater tragedies in the future. We tend in this day and age to be too near sighted, an instant gratification type of society. You are correct that logic and reason should be applied when planning long range goals, and emotions and passion be applied to making those goals a reality. Never the reverse.
 
Maj Mike- I've had the same conversation with 1SG Keith. "Don't do this again".. "but it's what I do".. "I know- it's just so damn hard being on the other end of the stick". It's a catch-22. You love your soldier, but you hate to send them off to do their "job", knowing how long they'll be gone and what they could endure- including injury, death, and witnessing events no human should ever have to see. I remind myself constantly that "that's what he does", and no matter what may happen, he LOVES it and who am I to dampen that spirit? Regarding the death notices... the recent helicopter attacks have been scary to me since I now have a cousin in Iraq flying Blackhawks. Every time I hear of one, I immediately look for the type of aircraft, location, and home base. You can't help it.
 
As one who waited (cop style) for 19 of the 21 years my late husband and I were married, and one who is currently waiting (USMC style)..... Yeah. I'm there. As long as there's not a govt vehicle in front of the house, I'm good. Is it weird that some days I don't want to go home from work? Just in case........ It was his job, it is his job. It's MY job to be the one who says "with your shield or on it." Keep LCPL "JCD" in your prayers, everybody.
 
I used to be "on standby" when there was a notification to be done for the unit. We didn't want to leave a wife alone after being notified so there'd be an offer for another wife to come if she wanted. I'd be unable to perform even simple tasks while waiting to see if I was needed or not. Mostly because as a military wife that's our biggest nightmare and how can you not feel so badly for someone going through it. I wouldn't even know the name until afterwards so there was the added worry of was it someone I knew and worked with in the KV network. . In the end, it really doesn't matter. As Andi put it..we're part of a sisterhood even if we've never met before. We mourn their loss and cry for the family left behind.
 
My husband is flying helicopters in Iraq as I type. His baby brother is Infantry and was on the ground in Afghanistan for a year recently. I worried MORE about his brother than I do about my husband. Every day. Every minute. You couldn't PAY me to take a convoy in that part of the world. I would MUCH rather, even with the spate of aviation deaths, have my husband flying in the air than driving on the ground. And John, you are so incredibly right. Should anything ever happen to MacGyver, the pain would be devastating. But not nearly as devastating than if we were to cut our losses and run because the fight became too tough. WE ARE NOT THAT THIN-SKINNED. WE. ARE. NOT. The civilian analogies of firemen and policemen and the losses they sustain is a good one. And valid. We do not stop enforcing the law or putting out fires (or responding to planes crashing into buildings in Lower Manhattan) just because a policeman or fireman is killed in the line of duty. No. We redouble our efforts and do our damndest to make sure that the loss was not in vain. Ever. The moment we retreat is the moment this country stops being the greatest nation on Earth.
 
Ladies(this is addressed to each of you individually and collectively): i will freely admit that i could never do the tasks that have fallen to you as described above. the days i pulled duty doing funeral detail back in the mid/late eighties down at Fort Polk were tough enough. i thank the good lord that i was never called to perform the Casualty Notification or Assistance role. i don't think i could have done it. now my wife? i betcha she would have found a way to work her way thru such a task. (read Gates of Fire by Pressfield and see what he says about how Leonidas chose which Spartans would go to Thermopylae.)
 
Maybe more like a rifled piece with the rifling shot out. And: The enemy just doesn't care about that.
 
MajMike ~ Loved "Gates of Fire" and I admire the strength of those women. Immensely.
 
HOOAH, HF6! HOOAH!
 
I thought about this for quite a while before deciding to comment. While the favorite Naval Consort and I are not married, it's safe to say when he is in the Sandbox, I am "waiting". Some of this discussion is about how can one bear "waiting" and how can someone go and leave their loved one to "wait". I have had this discussion with some people outside of the blogosphere (yeah, I still have non-Internet relationships) and I am always surprised by the question. We marvel at the other person's mindset. For myself, personally, there never was a choice. This matter was never considered at any time. Nor was it ever discussed with the favorite Naval Consort, except in passing "so-and-so asked me......". We are equally surprised by people's questioning of our situation. He is currently preparing his unit for a trip to the Sandbox. It will be his third deployment since 9/11 and there have been several mini-trips along the way. He. Is. Pumped. LOL He is not bloodthirsty, he is not a warmonger. He has a mission. He has sailors to train and prepare and equip. He is more alive than any ten other men. He has a purpose. He will execute the mission and return with every sailor. And I will wait. I don't choose to wait. I don't choose to breath. I don't choose for my heart to beat in this rhythm. When he returns, he will be white-f#%^ing-hot. He will not knock my socks off....he will melt them. And if, heaven's forfend, this is the time he does not return..........I would celebrate what we had. Because we will have had more in our time together than most people I know will have in their lifetime. My love for M&Ms doesn't reflect it, but I am actually a *quality* not a *quantity* girl. Not that it matters, I could not more choose not to "wait" than I could choose not to breath. This is who he is. This is who he was born to be. He had someone in the unit come to him and ask to be reassigned. The man stated that his wife had put the choice to him. This deployment or me. SB honored the man's request. Said it was better she told him now. Said she had stood by him during his last deployment. Overall, SB was far more understanding than I was. I bit my tongue. It is enough that I am so lucky. I am paraphrasing (and I may not have it right) here, but I believe John Adams said, "There are two kinds of people of any worth in this world, those with a purpose and those who acquire the purpose of others." SB has a purpose. It makes him more alive, more valuable, more everything than any other man I know. Having him is a gift. Fulfilling the mission is who he is. So how can waiting be a burden?