Honoring the Veterans of the Disposable Army

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 11, 2009

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by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – November 11, 2009 4:14 pm EST

Today we honor the veterans who have served in the country’s armed forces. Nobody seriously questions whether they deserve such recognition. The men and women who defended this country and fought its wars made immeasurable sacrifices.

I have spent much of the last year writing [1] about another group of people who suffered losses on behalf of U.S. interests abroad: the civilian contractors injured or killed [1] while doing their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are not, of course, soldiers. They could quit their jobs and go home any time they wanted. Many were paid far higher wages than their military counterparts. They knew they were signing up to take a specific job in a dangerous part of the world.

And yet, neither are the contractors working in Afghanistan and Iraq ordinary laborers. Civilians compose half the manpower [2] in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have seen and experienced the full horror of war. More than a thousand have been killed. Thousands more have suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries [3]. And yet, the Pentagon does not even know how many have died, nor how many are actually working [4] (PDF).

I have come to see the civilian contractors as a new kind of class in the demography of war. They are quasi-veterans: civilians who have experienced war much as soldiers do. There are tens of thousands of them. And while it’s hard to argue that they deserve ticker tape parades and Medals of Honor, it’s also hard to believe that they should be sent home with little more than a pay stub and a patchy health care system that doesn’t even address basic medical needs.

I received a letter from a former KBR contractor which crystallized the strange position of those who work was a war zone. D.A. Corson, who worked at a variety of companies in Iraq until 2008, wrote the following, which I thought worth sharing:

Civilian contactors in combat zones will likely continue to be a staple of military engagements. They cook, clean, make ice, purify water, install housing, do laundry, install and maintain generators for lighting, air conditioning, truck the beans, bullets and bandages, install latrines, wastewater treatment facilities, and as many of the other logistical functions as the military can give them to do so the troops can do their job, i.e., go out and, God willing, win the peace.

They too left their families, homes, and friends. They too labor 84-hour weeks, endure shellings, mortars, and RPG attacks, IEDS, and heat strokes. They too live on three meals a day of four different flavors of noodles or MREs when the convoys cannot get through and rations are running low. Some of them see to it that the bodies of your fallen sons, daughters, husbands, and wives are seen off from combat airfields with proper honors when no military personnel are available to do the honors themselves. They watch helplessly on Armed Forces media as our homes thousands of miles away are blown and washed away in hurricanes, floods and other disasters and wonder if their families are safe. Many die, are injured, captured and held as POWs; some have been beheaded. They too suffer high divorce rates and come home with their own cases of Combat Stress. Many serve for over a year and then came back 2 and 3 times for another year. Many are still there going on 5 and 6 years now. When they come home they have no Veteran’s benefits, indeed, no benefits at all in many instances, save perhaps a very pricey COBRA.

Yes, all go for the money. They too are doing what they think necessary for their families to get a little piece of the American Dream, but they are not all a bunch of money-grubbing, carpetbagging, war profiteers. We are your neighbors, friends, relatives, and fellow Americans. So many are there because they have to be. One young lady had just had a baby. Her husband had cancer, and she had to leave her newborn infant and other children, as well as her terribly ill husband to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head. But more than that, each wanted to serve our troops. They wanted to do their part. So many are Viet Nam veterans. They do their jobs; they serve our troops, proudly. They do it for them. They do it for freedom; they do it for our country. The American contractors all still take off their hats and get tears in their eyes when hearing the national anthem. When they go home their benefits end. Many are having to fight to get their medical insurance benefits for the injuries received and many families are fighting to get their life insurance benefits for their fallen loved ones.

They knew going in that returning to bands playing, flags waving, and such were not part of their bargain. That’s not why they went. However, in your churches and other ceremonies, when you ask your veterans to stand, after you have given them their well-deserved honors, you might want to give a thought to then asking any civilian contractors who served the troops in combat zones to stand up beside the vets too. I’ll bet they’d be proud to do so, again. Maybe there won’t be many in your particular gathering, but they are there: one for every soldier according to the Congressional Budget Reports and one dying for each 3 soldiers killed.

And by the way, you’re welcome. Maligned, appreciated, even counted or not, I am sure most would do it all again. It was an honor.

D. A. Corson Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq –June 2004 through October 2006 B.I.A., Basrah, Iraq –July 2006 through May 2007 Ali Al-Saleem Air Base, Kuwait — September-October 2007

God Bless America !

 

defensebaseactcomp said

November 11, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Thank you T and DA Corson

  • Mark McLean said

    November 11, 2009 at 6:58 pm Thank You,

    I wish I could shake the hand of D.A. Carson!  He put into words what it was like for all of us.

    Thank you for everything that you do.

    God Bless.

    Mark 2005 – 2008 Camp Victory D-9 Radwaniya Palace Complex D-8 Loyalty

  • Krash said

    November 11, 2009 at 8:36 pm Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough, but here it is anyway . . . THANK YOU DA CORSON and to T. Christian Miller for again remembering us and getting it in print.

  • Krash said

    November 11, 2009 at 8:38 pm Oh I almost forgot:

    Krash Camp Cedar II 2005-06 Convoy Driver

  • Ms Sparky said

    November 11, 2009 at 10:51 pm Another great article by “T” and Propublica. I was in Baghdad for two years. It wasn’t all about the money. I could have quit anytime. I was actually trying to do something I felt was important. I never once felt like a war profiteer. As an electrician I could have actually made more money in that States at that time.

    Ms Sparky

  • Barry said

    November 12, 2009 at 12:34 am God bless you all, and God please stop the wealthy insurance companies who illegally deny medical treatment and benefits to those contractors who are severely injured and killed.

    The tremendous stress caused by the heartless insurance companies denials of medical treatment is dangerous and can be deadly. There are 13 million posts on google if you search “the health effects of stress”.

    Here’s a quote from Web MD :

    Immune system – Constant stress can make you more likely to get sick more often. And if you have a chronic illness such as AIDS, stress can make your symptoms worse.

    Heart – Stress is linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), blood clots, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It’s also linked to coronary artery disease, heart attack, and heart failure.

    Muscles – Constant tension from stress can lead to neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Stress may make rheumatoid arthritis worse.

    Stomach – If you have stomach problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, stress can make your symptoms worse.

    Lungs – Stress can make symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse.

    Yet the insurance companies willfully pile the stress onto injured contractors with TBI, PTSD, body parts destroyed by injury and so much more.

    Stress is very powerful; Researchers at Ohio State University have found that stress can accelerate the progression of malignant melanoma, a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer : http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Health/Mental-Health/5-Surprising-Ways-Stress-Affects-Health.html

    Stress also has tremendous affects on our thoughts and emotions.

    The insurance companies have created an unreal world and are destroying so many, while the U.S. Government sets back and does little or nothing. God please help us stop this widespread destruction of lives !!

  • jayhawk said

    November 12, 2009 at 12:38 am anaconda, oct04-mar05 wounded aug05-mar06 mosul dec04-jan05 kuwait 605 het training jan05-feb05 bucca sept 07-july 08 i am a damn veteran..i dont care what anyone says. i left blood and body parts in iraq…any questions

  • dante said

    November 12, 2009 at 1:24 am On this Veterans Day, I can’t help but think and again grieve my husband’s death more than five years ago; not so much for myself and his family but about the absolute disgrace of his country who let him down so bad when he spent most of his army years in hostile environments defending the United States of America. This happened only because he was a civilian contractor when he died, and he was only a contractor because the government needed undercover operatives who could hide behind the designation of “humanitarian deminers” to carry out work that was too dangerous or illegal for the army to do.

    I met him when he was an airborne ranger who served as the only military officer at the embassy to investigate the improbable fatal collision of a German and American military plane off the Namibian coast.  When his mission was over, the only way he could stay on was to become a State Department contractor. Does this make him a mercenary?

    I take strong exception to the media trying to portray contractors as laundry and latrine cleaners. They do jobs that that the military won’t do – like getting within a certain distance of unexploded bombs or contaminated landmines and a lot of covert missions. Likewise, he never went to Iraq for the money because he earned the same as he did in previous assignments; the per diem cancelled out the danger pay and he anyhow had the choice of going to other duty stations. He went to Iraq because he told me that he was a trained elite soldier but has never been in a “real war” before – he did not count the horrors of Bosnia and Sarajevo as “real” because it basically was a cowardly air war against an impotent foe.

    He is a veteran who died because he was not diagnosed or treated but his memory is still being dishonored because the corrupt DOL/ DBA system got their hands onto him. If he was active duty he would have been at Arlington. Instead of apologizing and acknowledging that his death was preventable and he could have been cured and laughing among us today the mendacious labor dept. is trying to ignore the overwhelming stats and colludes with the insurance companies.

    Sorry to say it as it is; and all these congressional hearings are not changing anything as far as we can see.

    GO TELL THE AMERICANS STRANGER PASSING BY THAT HERE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR LAWS I LIE.

    Love you Tim.

  • dante said

    November 12, 2009 at 2:43 am Got it wrong; it is not in accordance but in observance, true to Sparta and the meaning of it all.

    If any of you ever make to to the Namibian capital of Windhoek you may want to go to the cemetery and pay your respects since the American embassy did not even deem it fit to send one person to the funeral or even send a message.

    So us Namibians were left to bury an American war casualty on our own with a Lutheran pastor leading the service explaining the effects of war on the psyche altough it had nothing whatsoever to do with us.SHAME on you America, you always stab your friends and even your own people in the back, and have a history of doing that. What the hell is wrong with you?

    The inscription on his tombstone is:

    Timothy Alan Eysselinck US RANGER

    Tell the Americans Stranger passing by That here in observance of their laws I lie.

  • John said

    November 12, 2009 at 3:37 am Thank you.

    Recovery Hammer, IQ 08-09. DOD needs to look closer at what we accomplished. We are veterans. The troops we were outside the wire with, treated us like brothers, because we were.

  • November 12, 2009 at 6:11 am [...]  [...]

  • Mahmoud Elbusaidy said

    November 12, 2009 at 10:31 am How true! I was one of the contractors (with so many others) outside the wire with our soldier brothers. We got to be so close and trusted each other with our lives but when we came back inside the wire we were made to be enemies tghat we were not allowed to visit and comfort each other on our own ground!

  • David W. Wilson said

    November 14, 2009 at 2:46 am I was a combat driver and convoy commander for 2 1/2 years in Iraq. Thousands came and went during that time. Most 95% never stayed more than a very short time. Of the men and women that stayed to do a very difficult and extremely dangerous job I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! Of the men that ran with me on the outside the wire convoys, Your the bravest and most honorable people I have ever had the privilege to know. I think about you all everyday, and always will. YOU ARE AN AMERICAN VET and the GUTS OF THIS COUNTRY. God be with each and every one of you.                                                         Love  D.W. peterdragondw@yahoo.com

  • Art Warren (BIGDOG) said

    November 14, 2009 at 8:46 am I am a Lead Bobtail Driver at Camp Cedar ll. I came to Iraq because I have two Brothers in the Army and that was the only way I could serve,as a Truck Driver. I will never regret my time here.Meeting and working with the other Truck Drivers here has made me a better person. It just would be nice to be recognized by our country for the sacrifices that we have made in the name of our country. It would really mean a lot. ART WARREN CAMP CEDAR ll Iraq

  • jayhawk said

    November 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm thanks d.w. back at ya brother…vatos locos forever.. i did 22 months in iraq. off and on from 04-08..wounded in 05…i am one of the first of the HETS drivers.  anaconda HETS/RECOVERY..also did a gig in BUCCA..btw spent 10 years in the army as a tank commander. funny how most of us were already veterans when we went over. guess it wasnt all about the money after all………………….

  • November 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Alot of were prior service, so when it hit the fan, all the survival stuff you thought you forgot came back in a New York second. I was one of the original ‘Charter Members’ of the Vato Loco truck drivers when we first moved to the big snake aka Anaconda from Kuwait when there was hardly anything there. I remember trying to sleep with our living area so close to the wire & south gate with all the incoming mortars, and gunfire going on at night. We were resented by the others who worked inside the wire full time. They were getting the best PPE (with plates) while we were running with the old BS second chance vests that wouldn’t stop a blade much less a bullet. Those idiots never realized the crap we had to go through on a daily basis outside the wire. Alot of us prefered it that way, because we knew what to expect outside. Inside you would get blindsided with the BS, because you couldn’t see it coming. Here’s to alll those who had their nuts screwed on tight enough to ‘Drive it like you stole it!’  VATOS LOCOS FOREVER!!

    J.R. “LUCK OF THE IRISH!”

  • November 14, 2009 at 11:51 pm I’m drinking a shot right now to ALL the Vatos Locos, past & present (If there’s any one left!) J.R.

  • nut said

    November 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm I was there on the lines almost every day driving convoy.  J.R. and D.W.  you two have a bigger set than any two I know.  Vatos Locos forever brothers.  I came home in 2005 with a knee injury that the wonderful insurance company did not want to do the surgery on for almost a year.  Thanks to their all knowing and far seeing wisdom I am still unable to work.  I am still in physical therapy and in the process of starting nerve blocks.

    There are many I was there with that have had it and still have it worse than I do.  D.W.  I remember the night you caught the glass from the IED and all the little things we used to do keep our sanity (what they allowed us to have).  J.R.  keep eating those pistachios.

    To all the others that I ran with and did my darndest to humiliate and piss off on a daily basis you now know how I kept sane.

    Guys you did a job that many would never want and no one but those of us that lived it would truly understand.  BE REAL.

    Your friend

    NUT

  • Bryan T said

    December 15, 2009 at 4:21 am Hey man, Awesome job with the article.  Im a contractor that is prior military and this is definately an interesting line of work.  Keep raising the awareness!!!

  • Nighthawk said

    July 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm Hey this is a shout out to all convoy drivers who were out of T.Q.and to all the drivers who were on the dirty thirty or the dirty beaver boys, all I can say is we GOT ER DOONE!!!!!!Hey guys good job, and Scout hang in there brother theres a light at the end of the tunnel. Ahearty Salute to you all from an old Vietnam Vet who had to go to battle one more time. God bless each and evert one of you.

  • Doc said

    December 3, 2011 at 7:18 am Cheers to you for this article…. One question for the crew. Since, I think it was 2006 all contractors came under the jurisdiction and subject to the UCMJ, while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and all manner of other places, would that not qualify each and every one veterans

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