10 Years in Iraq - Donovan Campbell

© 2009 Donovan Campbell
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03.24.2013

Donovan Campbell was a Marine lieutenant who served three combat deployments as a company commander – two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his time in Iraq.

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Lt. Campbell did everything right, including the decision to help the children and even though I have never been a Marine, I would follow him to hell and back, anywhere, anytime. Thank you for your service to this country.

I was born on a day that caused me to miss, by a few weeks, being eligible for draft by the Selective Service.

When I was in grade school, I had two close buddies, named Jim and John. I spent a lot of time with those two, both the same age as I. Coincidentally, Jim and John each had an older brother, which I did not. Also coincidentally, these two older boys were also named Jim and John, which I and my friends thought was cosmically, hysterically funny. These two older guys, high school boys, were also good friends with one another (I think they might have been a grade apart). They teased my friends and me and made fun of us but mostly treated us decently and I felt like they were older brothers to me.

My friend John's older brother Jim taught me, when I was in the first or second grade, how to tie my shoes. I had not been able to master this skill. It had caused me great embarrassment.

Jim was drafted and sent to Vietnam. His brother was in awe of him and showed me and his other buddies letters from Jim, pointing out "the mud of the Vietnamese jungle" on them and other souvenirs his brother sent to him.

I knew, though, that this young man was not particularly happy about the duty assigned to him. He had said to me, "Robbie, it's complete s***. The s*****est thing I'll ever have to do. What s***. Stupid-a** s***." I remember the moment very well. His brother wasn't within earshot.

Jim was decapitated in a helicopter accident. His brother John, my friend, was devastated and never recovered. He graduated high school with our class but committed suicide before our tenth class reunion. Jim's friend John (the older John) also committed suicide, though I don't know exactly when. I do know that he also had great trouble trying to get over his friend's death.

I know that the stupid Vietnam war destroyed the families of both of my friends. And I know that there haven't been *TWO DAYS* that have gone by in over forty years that I haven't thought about the two Jims and the two Johns.

This is just a light-duty example of how war wounds, secondarily and tertiarily and on, and on, everything it touches. So many have endured so much worse. So many have not endured.

This is the lens through which I see the experiences related to us by soldiers like lt. Campbell. I have no right to superimpose my life experience or the life experience of my cohort on men such as Campbell. I haven't read his book. I understand that many have found his accounts to be honest and vivid.

I can't consider such experiences of the Iraq or Afghanistan war theaters without *constantly* thinking about the lack of choices available to men like my friend's brother, on the one hand, and all those who have served since in the all-volunteer forces, on the other (even more so myself, just a little too young to have been swept into the brain-dead southeast Asian maw). I think about the sense of dread with which many obedient, unassuming, apprehensive, terrified young men felt- seeing no choice but to fulfill the dismal design of Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon, Melvin Laird, Mendel Rivers and their ilk.

Lt. Campbell tells us he hopes the "things [he] experienced, maybe [his] kids won't have to experience." I hope they won't, either. Lt. Campbell seems to imply that he himself had no choice other than to lend himself as an agent assigned to "experience some intense evil, some intense injustice, some horrible circumstances..." How so? If he had no choice in the matter he doesn't explain why in this interview.

I felt lucky (and I wasn't alone) to see the fangs pulled out of the snakehead of the Selective Service at the beginning of 1973. It's hard for younger people to imagine the confused and contradictory senses of anger, guilt, personal inadequacy, defiance and disgust that the prospect of being pressed into decidedly *involuntary* service could induce in a young person.

I'm as responsible for the political landscape in which I live as the next voter, no matter how I cast my ballot. If an election goes the wrong way, it's still my fault for failing to convince enough of my neighbors of my way of thinking. But no decision ever made since the pathetic end of the pathetic Vietnam war did so much to empower the blimpish, chauvinist adventuring of Pinhead W. Peabrain and his pack of jackals as the advent of the all-volunteer armed forces.

A certain sort of fellow sees no problem in sending off some other guy's kid to get his head blown off to defend our freedoms, as long as no one sends him a bill for the bother.

How long would the Iraq war have dragged, had the Selective Service begun spinning its lottery wheels? Fifteen minutes? Half an hour?

I grew up in the '60's and the VietNam war was badly mismanaged. Mostly by people who lacked any understanding of how the world had changed. Worse, were the people like R.S.McNamara, who though war was like business. Technology is important, but cannot substitute for people on the ground. RSN is, and was a complete idiot, who shouldn't have been in charge of anything military.
The problem with the "lessons" you think you learned, and that have totally escaped politicians, is that evil doesn't go away. It's always there, waiting to take over if given an opportunity. Take a good look at 1936 to 1944, and you can see it clearly. The world, and the U.S. tried to pretend that Nazi Germany, and Militarist Japan didn't concern us. Except finally, we had to lose thousands of troops killed, and hundreds of thousands wounded in various ways, to fix what wouldn't go away.
It's the same factor at work in "children" committing crimes, because idiots think they will be good all by themselves. Until a murder, or other serious crime is committed, and can't be ignored. Then, the wailing and gnashing of teeth starts. "She/he was a 'good kid,' I can't believe he/she did it." If you don't stop evil when it is small, by applying punishment/force, it costs 10's or 1,000's of times as much when you can't ignore it any longer. The same sort of wishful thinking caused most of the casualties in VN. War is not a game. Like fighting fire, you do it right the first time, or it it's harder later on.
In VN, and now in Afghanistan/Iraq, we have people who think of it as a game, except someone else pays the bills for their stupidity. They force our troops to follow unrealistic rules of engagement, and then whine about the deaths/injuries, when the rules they created don't work. Of course, they never have to pay for the failures, so they never learn anything. They must blame someone else, for the problem, and fools buy the excuses.

Less than 1% serve in the armed forces. Those who do gain life experience unparalleled anywhere. They should be recognized for the leadership capabilities and the worldly experience they gain while serving around the world

I agree whole-heartedly, except instead of being recognized for leadership capabilities they are placed on a 'terrorist watch-list'

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