Above: U.S. Soldiers with the 4th Sustainment Brigade bow their heads for prayer during Wrangler Day, June 28, 2013, at Fort Hood, Texas (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

By Murray Polner
April 7, 2014

The headlines and TV screens scream about the latest killing by an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran, like the army major who managed to murder nineteen others or the lowly soldier who recently killed himself and three others at Fort Hood. We keep asking ourselves Why, knowing we will either never really know or even if we come close to a truth, find it too hard to accept. The only time I ever asked Why was as a draftee in basic training in Fort Dix. A boy I barely knew who slept in the top bunk above me tried to hang himself, before someone mercifully cut him down. He was, one guy said, related to some big shot politician and we all assumed it must have had some connection.

In the recent shooting at Fort Hood the Times went all out, assigning thirteen reporters to the story and ably covering every possible angle from Killeen, Texas, New York, Washington, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Guayanilla, Puerto Rico and St. Petersburg, Fla. It followed up with a probing article “War Pain Yields to New Anxiety at Fort Hood.” In the meantime, the government and the Pentagon sent 160 investigators and 80 FBI agents to interview, examine, probe and scrutinize every available human being in and around the vast army camp. If any serious conclusions are ever drawn no doubt it will avoid core issues about war and peace that our political oligarchy will never accept.

I hope someone at the Times took time to visit their morgue and re-read Denise Grady’s superb 2006 piece of reportage, “Struggling Back From War’s Once-Deadly Wounds” where, rather early on, she wrote about what the two wars were doing to our soldiers and their families back home. In it, she wrote, “Survivors are coming home with grave injuries, often from roadside bombs, that will transform their lives; combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress.” She came close to why bad things happened when the troops returned home. But back in 2006, few at home cared much. Just as when that inconsequential private in my barracks tried to hang himself, and a lifer sergeant later shrugged, telling our platoon, “People do crazy things. Mind your own business.”

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