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Citizen Voices

Re-Enlistment or Stop Loss?

The New York Times recently published a photograph of the largest mass re-enlistment of soldiers in the history of the U.S. military. This photo haunted me for days as I tried to reconcile the soldiers' patriotism with what we now know of Bush's War .

I wanted to ask veterans what they thought of the photo and when I heard that Stand Down was in progress at San Diego High School this past weekend, I thought it would be a great opportunity to find a cross section of veterans, including those who had not done so well after coming "back to the world."

Photo: Candace Suerstedt


After checking in at the command tent I wandered around the grounds hoping I didn't look conspicuous with my camera hanging on my shoulder. (Years ago I decided I couldn't be a professional news photographer because the job often exploits others during crisis.)

Tony from San Diego
July 18, 2008 at 08:13 PM
Great point about our vets falling through the cracks. My father was in Vietnam, and our rhetoric about caring for the troops far surpasses the compassion they actually receive. If you risk your life for your country, you deserve more than a medal and a discount at participating restaurants. But there is no need to reconcile their patriotism with "Bush's war." For better or worse, it's their war as well. As long as they're fighting it, they have a very personal interest in winning it. The best argument for seeing the Iraq war to the end is that if we don't, everything our troops have sacrificed--their comfortable American life, their time with their families, and sometimes even their lives, will have been for naught. From this perspective, bringing the troops home prematurely would dishonor them by guaranteeing that all they have investing into winning the war yields no positive returns. Of course, today's blog suggests that you already believe that even if we win the war, it would not have been worth the sacrifice, making this a moot point. Either way, please remember that honoring our troops doesn't necessarily mean pulling out of Iraq right now. Patriotism isn't contingent on whether or not one supports the Iraq War.

michael valentine from spring Valley
July 19, 2008 at 07:38 AM
If the war were worth fighting it would be worth paying for. But we are not paying for the war as we go, but passing the burden of the cost of this war to the children of America yet unborn. If supporting the troops amounted to lip service they would be all fat and happy now. But supporting the troops amounts to more then waving the flag and supporting an immoral and unjustified war of preemption. Supporting the troops is looking out for their welfare not cheerleading a war. The all volunteer armed forces were never intended to fight a prolonged war and armed occupation in a hostile country. Never before has this country asked it's fighting men and women to return to the combat zone time after time with no end game in sight. The all volunteer armed forces were suppose to fight an emergency war of necessity and then get relieved by the citizens of this country by way of a draft. Instead they have been used and abused by an administration that even opposes pay increases for the troops and opposed the recent Webb G.I. Bill that will give our men and women who serve three years a way up. If this war supported by the people of this country then they would support a draft to fight it. The war isn't supported by the people of this nation and they will not support a draft, the only real support the troops need. Pursuing war crimes against President Bash and Vice President Cheney is the honor the troops need most. It would be the start of an apology to the troops for the lack of due diligence and honest assessment of facts needed for the grave business of starting a war.

Michael W. Burns from Carlsbad
July 19, 2008 at 09:06 PM
There is a certain irony to this post. By being haunted by a photo of members of the volunteer Army being sworn in , the author sought out other people who had been members of the military in a previous time, to find out how they reacted to it. These were mostly the men and women of the Vietnam era, who were not volunteers altogether, to see how they felt about it. As a result she found a brotherhood in a place she never expected, among people she never knew about ten miles from her happy home at Balboa High School. Yes, "God help them," would have been my response, too for as long as there is war, soldiers need help.So long as there is war soldiers will need help when they come home. I understand that. I have understood it since I was a young Ensign flying night esort missions over Vietnam and then for years as a cargiver for the unfortunate survivors of that war. But there is a differnce here. The men and women in that photograph are not "stop loss" victims but reenistees in a service they believe in and are swearing the same oath I did when I went to work for the government so many years ago. They are in harms way now and it is the first time since Desert Storm that we have put the men and women who we now pay to work as soldiers there in great numbers. It is a decision that was not lightly taken, this paid Army idea, I was there when it happen and many had there doubts, but it is there now and unless you want to change that, men and women will go to work for the Armed Services everyday because they chose to do so for the rest of the author's life. So they will fight "Bush's War" or they will go to Afghanistan or they will file papers in a dusty office in Alabama where the air conditioning doesn't work. They are all heros, at least to me, and all deserve the best we can give them for their work when they are done. But please, don't confuse "stop loss" with professionals who will do their job everyday. The alternative is to return the draft and the sacrifice of sunshine soldiers such as me. As she saw at Stand Down, there is no shortage of them either. I am sorry that the reconciliation of patriotism in one's mind has now come to be equated with the futility of the Iraq War. I can't change that. I can only hope those men and women in the picture never have to go or go back. War is not, as most vets at Stand Down would also tell you, isn't about winning and losing for them, its about getting home.


Brian from San Diego
July 21, 2008 at 06:03 PM
"We Americans do a great job of celebrating our soldiers on national holidays, but often turn a deaf ear when they fall through the cracks of society later on." I agree with that statement, however forgive me for being defensive. I'll just speak for myself here. I've been a good supportive American of the troops, in that I had educated myself enough to know (through extensive reading of the back pages of the NYTs, LATimes, BBC, the Guardian, etc etc) that the Bush Administration – who had already shown its willingness to lie to the American people – was bent on going to Iraq for reasons other than what was being presented, and PRIOR to the shock and awe invasion. After coming to the conclusion that the evidence didn't justify war, I joined millions of others on the streets to beg this Administration to not start this illegal war based on lies. We were joined by millions more all over the world, from every country in the so-called coalition of the willing. Skip ahead. Walter Reed, reports of how the Bush Administration didn't have enough flak jackets, choosing to not speed up its retooling of humvees once the roadside bomb danger had emerged, the cutbacks at the VA by the Bush Administration, the blocking Democrats in Congress' efforts to bolster the troops pay and VA benefits, poor conditions at the Iraq bases for soldiers because the services outsourced to private companies weren't being properly monitored, private armies paid many times more than the soldier stop-lossed for a second time, and a third, the choice to not give National Guard soldiers the same returning medical benefits of regular GIs, and the nauseating list goes on and on and on. So, as an American, I and millions of others like me, tried our best to wake up our neighbors, relatives, co-workers to the relevant facts that emerged prior to this God forsaken war, but time and time again, we were ignored, called un-American, unsupportive of the troops, yet the Patriotic swill was thick coming from those who supposedly were supporting the troops by blindly supporting sending them into war. And the mainstream broadcast media. The so-called liberal media, that broadcast many many times more voices aligned with the Administration's propaganda, than those pointing out the facts which ran counter to such. I think these troops have been sent into a meat grinder of a war, and commanded to do things that some won't ever be able to recover from. Why I ask, do we still have homeless veterans on the streets from the Vietnam War, you know that other war based on lies. Its really all such emotional patriotic garbage that allows someone to feel great sending off 18 year olds to fight in distant lands, under patriotic slogans, but to not lift a finger trying to find out if the war is worth fighting. For those paying attention, the march to war with Iran is proceeding rapidly. Seymour Hersch has written extensively as an investigative reporter about the topic among many others. I wonder how many know about the MEK? Americans who will be asked to sacrifice their lives for the next war, might be grateful if you found out. In the meantime – speaking of course to those Americans who never question the justifications for war – if you buy the little American flag now, it will cost much less than the morning we bomb Iran. As per the homeless vets in closing. Try engaging them in a conversation sometime on the streets. I've found their recitations of their psychological nightmares disturbing, and frightening at times, but they are always appreciative of the company.

A Musing Reamus from Carlsbad
July 22, 2008 at 12:38 AM
That is the idea, Brian, speak for yourself and you certainly did that, with vigor, at length, and with conviction. I can't say I agree with it all, but your opinion is worth knowing. Forgive those of us who have not yet achieved your level of cynicism. I am glad you have such intellectual passion.