Sgt Bales should be a name you are all familiar with now. But just in case you aren't, he is the Army service member accused of killing 17 civilians in Afghanistan. You can google a ton of stories about him or you can simply flip on any news channel and you'll hear more about him. I thought I'd share my thoughts.
My heart shatters for this fellow Army family. There's no doubt in my mind his wife was absolutely clueless that this was going to happen. I read the graceful and eloquent statement she wrote the other day. As I read it, I could picture her sobbing again and again at the computer while writing it. I cannot imagine how long it took for her to write that statement. I am sure that by now her eyes are so red and puffy that no amount of makeup will hide it. I know that's how I would be. I cannot imagine wearing the shoes she is wearing right now. I can only imagine the thoughts that are racing through her mind. Then to think of their precious little children who are so young they have no idea what is going on. I think she is incredibly strong and courageous for writing that statement and her words were so perfect. To me, she is a great example of a true Army wife.
As for Sgt Bales, we can speculate all we want, but we have to remember you are innocent until proven guilty, not the opposite. I am not saying what he did was right. We all know it was atrocity. But once you go beyond the headlines, you can see the factors that might have pushed him to that breaking point. I will be totally honest and tell you I am shocked this hasn't happened before. I'll also tell you that parts of me fear that my husband or his battle buddies could have also been pushed to that point. Let me explain why.
We have been at war for over 10 years. We ask our troops to come home for a year, then deploy for a year. Just about the time they get settled we tell them to get ready to go again. Year on, year off is what we say all the time. But then you say, "But wait I read in the paper our troops were going to be home for longer stays." Well let me let you in on this one, Chaz and his guys deployed June 16, 2010. He was injured January 22, 2011. His guys came home in April 2011. They redeploy next month. That's right the men who served with Chaz, who saved his life, who came home April 2011 are getting back on a plane April 2012. So what was that you read in the paper the other day?!
Take a minute and think about that. You spend a year being shot at, not having proper supplies and food. The brothers and sisters who are with you everyday are being killed right in front of you. You have friends get injured right next to you and you pray that you got them out in time so you can see them when you get back home. Then you only have minutes to think and pray for these friends because you've been tasked out for another mission and you have to get your head in the game. You are in a place where the people really don't want you there and they are confused to why you are there. According to my hubby and his friends there are no such thing as civilians where they were. I have been told more than once and from multiple sources that women and children were armed too. Then you finally get to leave that place to go be with people you love only to find out you are different. Some people can accept you and some can't. What if the ones you were counting on the most to love and accept you don't? What if your wife moved on without you?! What if your children looked at you like you were a total stranger? What if you go home only to find out that everything you thought was fine isn't and you only have a year to fix it? But really you don't have a year because you have to go to this school or this training. Then to add to that you have deployed so much that now you just feel like a pawn in a chess match. You feel like you are not a person, you feel expendable. Then you find out that the government who keeps sending you to all these places plans to cut your benefits from as many angles as possible. This is happening to many of our millions of people serving in the military everyday.
I don't know Sgt Bales, nor his motivating factors, but after sitting silently and watching all this happen to people I truly love over a decade now, I know what some of those factors might have been. I have seen what war does to people first hand and it can be heart braking. We have to really look at the statistics here. We are asking less than one percent of our population to sacrifice again and again. We are asking too much of our troops and their families. I'll say it, we are abusing them. How can we not expect our troops to snap?!
I feel we all can agree Sgt Bales should not have done what he did, if he did in fact do it. But maybe his actions will finally bring to light the sacrifices that are going on in military homes everywhere. Perhaps his actions will encourage a very necessary dialog to really begin. One thing is for sure and I say this with total conviction the America people must support our troops. So let's show them our support and ask our government to take care of them and their families. Let's help our families get the help they need so we can prevent any further atrocities from happening.