Soldiers rendering Honors to Fallen Comrades at Fort Hood (MSNBC Photo)
The killings of 13 Americans and wounding of 30 others by Major Nidal Malik Hasan has left a bitter taste in many American’s mouth. It was an act of treason by a man who apparently became a “self-radicalized home grown terrorist.” Influenced by his religious beliefs which even some of his Moslem Imam’s thought were troubling and for which they would not approve him to serve as a volunteer lay leader for other Moslem soldiers, Major Hasan attacked his fellow soldiers. He walked into a processing center for soldiers and opened fire allegedly shouting “Allah Akbar!” as he began his 4 minute rampage firing over 100 rounds from two weapons, one a “cop killer” type of pistol. It appears that in the year prior to this terrorist act that Major Hasan not only made statements approving of suicide bombing, statements against U.S. Service Members of the Moslem faith fighting other Moslems and vehemently opposing the U.S. involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these statements were around other Army personnel and evidently Army investigators had been watching him. As an officer who at one time was a company commander and also helped the administrative oversight of various criminal investigations I wonder how Major Hasan was not fully investigated and called into account for his statements which were in direct contravention to his oath as an Army Officer, his Commission which as a Regular Army Field Grade Officer was actually approved by the Senate, and his Hippocratic Oath as a Physician to “do no harm.” Major Hasan is not the first soldier, Moslem or otherwise to kill his fellow soldiers. What makes his case unique is that he is an officer and a physician. I personally think that is why he was never called to account for his words by others in the Army. The fact is that no one ever assumes that an officer or a physician could or would actually commit such an act. This was one of the hardest things for me in comprehending Major Hasan’s crime, simply put “officers do not do such things.” Maybe I’m old fashioned and my sense of honor as an officer borders on archaic but how such a man could swear the oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic “ could kill his fellow soldiers is beyond me. I read his power point presentation given to his class last year which is posted here:
The presentation is troubling because of the more fundamentalist understanding that Major Hasan shows even in relationship to Moslems that he considers “moderate.” “Muslims may be seen as moderate (compromising) but God is not.” And “We love death more than you love life!” Having attended the Jordanian Army Peace Operations Training Center and gotten to know senior Iraq officers while serving with our advisors I can say that Major Hasan has a different take on this than many Islamic officers in the armies of Arab nations. How Hasan was able to present this and have had documented contact with known radicals without being at least questioned shows an incredible lack of forsight by the FBI and Army investigators.
I pray that he faces justice and of there are any accomplices that they will also be cause and pay for this. At the same time I pray that the xenophobic ramblings of some who see all Moslems as the enemy are curbed and that they will not incite violence against the innocent in the name of revenge.
Fort Hood conducted a memorial service today for the fallen. I listened to a lot of it on the radio as I was out. I was impressed by the remarks of General Cone, General Casey and President Obama. I think that given the circumstances that the words were fitting and appropriate especially since tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. The link to the text of the President’s speech is here:
However I do think that a couple of parts of the speech stand out enough to post here:
This is a time of war. Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.
For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that’s been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.
But here is what you must also know: Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — that is their legacy…
These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we’re working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.
As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are the tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call — the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.
We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.
We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.
We’re a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.
We’re a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That’s who we are as a people.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It’s a chance to pause, and to pay tribute — for students to learn the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.
For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, all of us — every single American — must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who’ve come before.
We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.
This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in the time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and all stations — all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.
In today’s wars, there’s not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success — no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of the impact of these young men and women is no less great — in a world of threats that no know borders, their legacy will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that’s extended abroad. It will serve as testimony to the character of those who served, and the example that all of you in uniform set for America and for the world…
Long after they are laid to rest — when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today’s servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown — it will be said that this generation believed under the most trying of tests; believed in perseverance — not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.
The speech which I heard on radio moved me. A president acknowledged what I have believed about our current military. We serve because we believe in the ideals of this nation and unlike wars past, the “Good Wars” where there were homecoming parades after surrender ceremonies we come home to a nation which mostly has not been at war, a nation that we have protected and served in harm’s way when most Americans were told to be patriotic after 9-11 by President Bush by “going shopping.” In the midst of all we serve, many of us volunteering for more, not because we like war, but because we believe in our country and in helping others come to know freedom. I know that amid the political cynicism that is so rampant that such idealism is derided by those who only see America as a force for evil, but such is not the case. By and large our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen serve not for college money or to simply have a job, but because we care about the country and know that by serving now that we will likely end up in a combat zone.
We serve in unpopular wars and our sacrifice is to many people just a news bite in between economic, entertainment and sports stories. There are those on the left who despise us as much as they did those who served in Vietnam. Likewise there are those on the right who have no compunction about using us in the military until we are spent without sharing a whit in our sacrifice, without ever having put on a uniform much less seeing combat. Some are politicians seeking a way to increase their power; others are people that I used to listen to on the radio all the time whose answer is to automatically suggest bombing or invading another country. They say many kind words about us who serve and occasionally sponsor events to “help” military families, but none suggest any real shared sacrifice on the part of the nation. In fact sometimes they have a negative effect on those who serve because their words are believed as gospel by many and if a combat veteran disagrees with a popular radio talk show host he can be told that that he is “politically correct” “weak” or even a “pansy” by people who shop till they drop under the protection provided by we who serve. Having had this happen to me recently I know it is the case and the blowhards who drive goad people into such idiocy can go to hell.
So we fight the wars alone while contractors such as Halliburton and the company formerly known as Blackwater get rich lining their pockets with tax dollars doing jobs that at one time were done by the military in an era when much of the nation had a personal interest in the outcome of the war. We fight the wars and deal with the trauma while others beat the war drums without regard to cost and for the first six years of the war continued to reduce the size of the military. The previous administration had to be forced by congress into increasing the size of the active Army and Marine Corps and to stop cutting the Navy and the Air Force.
I am glad that unlike Vietnam that the majority of people seem to care about the military and our servicemen and women, even if they disagree with the national policy regarding the present wars. For that I am grateful and blessed for the outward show of support by many stands in stark contrast what our brothers and sisters who served in Vietnam faced.
This has been and will continue to be a long war. We have been at war over 8 years since 9-11 as opposed to under 4 years of American involvement in World War II. The overwhelming burden of the war has been on the backs of an incredibly small segment of the American population. If you look at the numbers it is well under one percent of the population of the United States that has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is not a shared sacrifice.
Today is Veteran’s Day. Take the time to recognize the sacrifices of not just those who fought in the big popular wars, but for those who have endured the unpopular and unglamorous wars such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I have made two combat deployments as well as numerous trips in and out of theater. When the time comes and my boss thinks I’m ready to go again I will go to serve alongside my friends and comrades many of whom are serving in harm’s way now.
I ask readers of this website to remember the fallen in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other fronts in this ongoing war including the home front which felt the effect of the war when Major Hasan attacked his fellow soldiers. Remember the fallen, care for the wounded and the families of those who have lost their lives, being wounded in mind body or spirit and those who have served in wars past as well as this war. Our brothers and sisters who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are growing fewer in number daily and “we, we happy few” who continue this fight need all the support that we can get.
I have been in California this week helping with my parents affairs. My dad is in a nursing facility here with Alzheimer’s disease. During my last visit he still recognized me and for a few minutes I had him back. Now he no longer knows who I am. He is a retired Navy Chief and toward the end of his career served at An Loc where he endured that siege in the spring of 1972. I thank God for my dad’s service and example that helped lead me to chose serving in the military, something for me that has lasted more than 28 years in service with the Army and the Navy. I pray for God’s peace and mercy on him as he lives what little life that he has left.
God bless all of our veterans, the living and the dead as well as all of those who serve in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pray for our country and the military.