Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Untold Tragedy of War

A The Cost of the Iraq War

Iraq war by the numbers: The dollar cost of the Iraq war is astounding. Through mid-2009 the estimated cost of the war will be $ 800 billion or $ 12 billion per month or $ 5,000 per second. The cost of deploying each troop for one year is nearly a half million dollars. Some $ 9 billion of taxpayer’s money and an additional $ 550 million in spare parts shipped to contractors in Iraq remains unaccented for. More than 200,000 guns, over half of which are AK-47s are lost or missing. Also missing - $1 billion in tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other equipment and items provided to the Iraqi security forces. An estimated $ 12 billion has been mismanaged or wasted including $1.4 billion in overcharges to Halliburton and $ 20 billion paid to Halliburton subsidiary KBR. The money wasted in Iraq is disgusting, but it is not the worst of U.S. losses.

Casualties of war: More than 4,200 American soldiers have returned home in body bags and flag covered coffins. Another 50,000 or so will return home wounded, missing limbs, blinded, unable to communicate with their families. These numbers are readily available on the internet. Many politicians, including President Obama have campaigned on issues surrounding the Iraq war and how it has been a drain on our economy and brave soldiers. Less reported is the fact that none of the soldiers fighting in Iraq are draftees. In many cases they are National Guardsmen whose purpose is designed to serve at home and respond to disasters in their respective states. Others are Reserves who have been called up to fight in a country that doesn’t want our troops to be there. Many of these brave soldiers have done multiple tours of duty and others have been held over beyond the time they were to have completed their obligation. But there is a more insidious cost to the war whose victims rarely show up on any of the reports. One such victim is Jason Klinkenberg. His wife was another victim of the Iraq war. Neither will be counted in any official data reports.

November 11, 2005: Senior Airman Klinkenberg was riding in a truck in a convoy somewhere in Iraq when a rocket propelled grenade hit one of the convoy trucks filled with diesel fuel. Jason raced to the damaged truck to find the driver, Daniel Jurn, on fire and screaming. Jason lunged toward the cab in an attempt to save his fellow airman but was restrained by the convoy commander. They were helpless and could only watch their comrade burn to death. The fire raged for seven hours until Jurn’s remains could be retrieved by Jason who hauled them back to the base.

Completed his tour of duty: In early 2006 the Senior Airman completed his tour of duty and visited his parents in Tooele, Utah. They noticed a change in Jason’s personality. The experience in Iraq had left him psychologically damaged. If any fire was lit in the house, whether birthday candles, fireworks, or the fireplace, Jason would react badly, often withdrawing and refusing to talk. According to his parents he was never the same after his return.

Tried to move on: Jason tried to get on with his life. He took classes at the local college. He wrote a paper for his Psychology class in which he graphically described the horror of the event that killed his fellow Airman. It didn’t help. He was haunted by the events he’d witnessed. Three weeks after he’d written the paper that was his biography, the post-war stress syndrome overtook Jason and he snapped. He shot to death his wife of 17 months then turned the .38 caliber handgun on himself.

Air Force Brat to Airman: Jason was a second generation Air Force enlistee. His Dad had served while Jason was growing up and the family moved often – Alaska, Utah, Kentucky.... Jason became known by the affectionate term of Air Force Brat, meaning he was the child of one who served in the Air Force. Instead of being inhibited by the constant moving Jason saw it as an adventure and used the experience to make new friends. He was a most personable youth. He was a class officer and athlete in high school. His motivation to join the military was not to follow in his father’s footsteps but to honor and serve his country. By all accounts Jason was the kind of guy everybody loved – honest, loyal, and brave. But when he finally returned from Iraq he was something more than that – he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. His battle with the psychological syndrome was evidenced by his 38 visits to psychiatrists and psychologists over a two-year period. Four months before the tragedy he had attempted suicide.

Anatomy of frustration: Jason was the victim of the practice of the military extending duty tours and refusing to allow troops to be discharged when their hitch is up. The practice was started because of a shortage of available troops for an unpopular war. Jason’s tour had been extended by a year. It was extended again and he attempted suicide rather than return. Like so many victims of PTSD Jason was crying out for help, but the help was inadequate. The Iraq war has claimed several victims with the death of Jason and his wife Crystal, the devastation of their families, and the pain those remaining will feel for a lifetime over the loss of two promising lives. And none of this will be included in the cost of the war. None of the victims will be listed among the casualties of the Iraq war. But they are all victims just as sure as the truck driver who was immolated. This war must end for the good of our country, for the good of the country where the fighting is taking place, and for the good of mankind.

A little blogging music Maestro… This time, to honor Jason, his wife Crystal, and all who were affected by this tragedy, please play “Taps.”

Dr. Forgot

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