Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Soldier Haters

One of the members of the 8-229th Aviation Flying Tigers went home on emergency leave a few weeks ago. I’ll call him Sergeant Tom.

The Army allows its soldiers, in cases of urgent need, to go home for a couple weeks. The airplane ticket is paid for by the Red Cross, I believe, though I’m not sure. Anyway, it doesn’t come out of the soldier’s pocket. Which is a good thing, airline tickets halfway around the world being fairly pricey these days.

A number of others in the unit have gone home on emergency leave as well. This, unfortunately, is pretty much normal. One soldier went home to help burry his Dad. Another went home to take care of the kids while his wife was in the hospital for heart surgery. Another soldier left for three weeks to face a judge and his wife’s divorce lawyer. All the family emergencies and tragedies that happen in peacetime keep happening in wartime as well. Death and misery definitely do not take a holiday just because America sends its troops abroad.

We all know that.

The soldiers going home on leave are, for the most part, treated like heroes, by most of the folks they meet, anyway. An old guy will spot you in the airport, stumble over on his walker, and shake your hand like his pumping an old time fire engine. A young woman you’ve never met before will walk up, give you a firm hug, and plant a kiss on your stubble covered cheek. Some couple you don’t know will insist on paying for your dinner.

Each time, the soldiers get embarrassed, treated like they just came back from the moon or something. Nobody has a speech prepared. There’s no “One small step for man,…” or, “Ich bin ein Dallaser!” One soldier coming back from leave told me it got to where he and his wife stopped going out, avoiding all the attention he wasn’t sure he deserved.

Well, he’s a bit shy, really.

Sergeant Tom went home on emergency leave to go to court. Not divorce court. Family court. He was being accused by the County of abandoning his children. His three kids had been living with his Mom and Dad since he’d been called up to serve in the Global War on Terror.

It seems that one of his children’s school teachers made the accusation.

The school teacher had been telling one of Sergeant Tom’s three children, a little boy, whom I’ll call Billy, that his Dad didn’t love him any more. That Sergeant Tom had abandoned Billy. That little Billy’s Dad joined the Army so that he could dump little Billy, and his sister and brother, and never come home again.

Then the school teacher called County Social Services and made the same accusation. That Sergeant Tom had dumped his kids on his parents, joined the Army, and took off for parts unknown. Social Services searched Sergeants Tom’s home, interviewed his children, and took temporary custody of his three children.

All to protect the children, you understand.

Certainly with no poorly hidden political agenda in mind. That would be pure evil on the part of the school teacher. Wouldn’t be “Against the War but Behind the Troops”, as today’s political slogan goes.

Me, I think this goes just a bit beyond political discussion on the pros or cons of a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not quite what most people would put under the category of Free Speech or even Thoreau’s civil disobedience. A bit beyond the pale. More like back stabbing viciousness against someone they truly hate.

We might speculate about the motivations of the school teacher. Perhaps the fact that there are those willing to risk their lives to protect family, home and country while he continues his everyday, comfortable life, somehow makes him feel less adequate. Less of a man. More like someone hiding behind those others. So, he strikes out. Demonizing those that make him feel bad about himself.

But, we don’t know, really. It may be that the school teacher himself doesn’t know why he hates soldiers so much.

And no, Sergeant Tom did not fly home, hunt the school teacher down, shoot off his legs, and throw a fire bomb into the Social Services front glass window. Although Hollywood likes to portray all veterans as psychotic killers and emotional misfits, unable to live in the REAL world after being emotionally destroyed by the war, Sergeant Tom went home on emergency leave and did the right thing.

He went to court and presented his case.

No surprise, Sergeant Tom won.