Perhaps the worst suffering in war is the pain of abandonment; above all other sacrifice and loss is the separation and isolation forged by the very nature of armed conflict. I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings one must experience participating in a seemingly endless war to realize that he or she has been removed from the realm of the living, existing as human in biology only, but more like a ghost among other ghosts, simply waiting and enduring one's time in hell until quite literally, one can join the dead. The awareness that one is removed from most everything that is traditionally associated with being human must be rather frightening and humbling, but to think you have been forgotten by the people back home, the same people for whom you're supposedly fighting in the first place is the ultimate injury. I wouldn't think the name Robert Bales will ever be forgotten now.
I know as a nation we love sports. We love gambling, both on Wall Street and Main Street. We love television. We love shopping and new things. In fact, our consumption and lust for new technological devices like the I-Phone and I-Pad are really more like a new religion than any retail experience.
In the small town where I live, thousands of people lined up for at least one-quarter mile when the local ice cream shop opened its doors for the first time during a warm spell we've been having in March! Would that many people have turned out for a town hall meeting addressing the consequences of war or ensuring veterans get the health care they require? I wonder. And the truth is that our freedom to line up in safety for ice-cream in small towns across America is a direct result of the sacrifices made by our military throughout the centuries, but now we seem to have every distraction under the sun to turn our attention away from the most important issues at hand, especially the burdens we have been asking our servicemen and women to carry for the last decade in our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the true toll this war is taking on all of us whether we realize it or not.
I believe the greatest loss a soldier can face is the pain of abandonment.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is a 38 year-old Army veteran with three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He lived with his family in Lakewood, Washington and served out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord where his trial may take place. He now sits in solitary confinement in a prison cell in Fort Leavenworth Kansas awaiting the next phase in his trial where he has been charged with seventeen counts of murder.
In 2010 more US soldiers died by suicide than in combat—and Army suicides are up 80%.
Perhaps Memorial Day 2012? I fully realize our retail sales, beach trips, and barbecues might get in the way here, but we as a nation (and the entire world) need to develop a degree of consciousness and awareness of the cost and impact of these wars through prayer, meditation and reflection.