One Veteran's Voice

03 January 2006

A Life, Wasted

I spotted this at the Washington Post, and it really got to me. It is the opinion of a father whose son was killed in Iraq.

A Life, Wasted
Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed

By Paul E. Schroeder

Tuesday, January 3, 2006; Page A17

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

The writer is managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland.

So my New Year's resolution is to "stop whispering my opposition to this war", something I have been guilty of in the past. As a veteran of the war, many people have asked my opinion of it, and while (at least after my discharge) I believe I have always made it clear that I think the war is not going well and that we need a change in strategy and leadership, I haven't always said what I really think, for fear of offending or sounding un-patriotic.

This blog is the result of me being tired of holding my tongue when I talk to real people. It's easy to rant in cyber space about whatever, and it's cool because people are actually reading this (thanks, by the way, for all the support), but interactions with real human beings are still much more important.

I hope you will join me in my resolution for 2006, if you have, like me, whispered your dissent in the past.

tags
Current Events, Iraq, Bush,

17 Other Voices:

jarvenpa said...

Thank you for posting this. I find more and more people speaking out in my small town. I've taken part in weekly vigils for some years now (ever since right after 9/11--I felt someone should immediately stand up for peace, even in a little town). At first reaction was pretty heavy. Lately the most surprising people are speaking opposition out loud and mostly unafraid. Our local veterans are some of the strongest voices against this war.
Anyway, do know your site is read, and has influence.

1/03/2006 06:33:03 PM  
JamesRaven said...

I saw part of this piece on another site and I'm so glad you put up the whole thing. I've always called it what I believe it is: An Invasion and Occupation, in which we've done nothing to make us safer and everything to make us more hated. Thanks again for your service and for putting this up. No need to be quiet anymore, with so many Iraq vets returning to run as Democrats, that's gotta say something. And so do we.

The Psychotic Patriot

1/03/2006 06:57:43 PM  
Skeptik said...

Hey,

Just a question on your "rack" in your blogger profile...

I notice you don't have your PLDC ribbon or your good conduct medal. This could mean a few things: either you are a two-year enlistee, or you are a shit-bird, or you are a liar. Which one is it? Unless you did some pretty spectacular shit, a junior enlisted person (that is what you have to be since you didn't go to a leadership development school) doesn't get a bronze star. And how can stop-loss be a bitch if you are only a two-year enlistee? I think you're probably full of shit. How 'bout it?

1/04/2006 06:40:17 AM  
skeptik said...

P.S. I looked at your photos. You're in the 3d ID, in a non-combat MOS. You are a fobbit. How did you earn a BSM?? I will call your unit and ask for names of men who received BSMs with V device...if any PFC or SPC in a non-combat MOS come up, then you might be legit. If not, you're fucked. If you are a poser...you need to take that shit off your site or I will expose you as a fraud, have your blog shut down, and have you prosecuted under the UCMJ for being a general dipshit.

I don't care what your political affiliation is. I just can't stand liars who claim to be war heros just to seem credible to their audience. Trust me, I will crush you.

To the readers out there: you must understand that pretending to have a Bronze Star brings discredit on all those who legitimately earned it. This guy is full of shit. I know combat arms NCOs and Officers who had their BSMs w/ V denied...and those dudes kicked some serious ass. Fobbits like this turd burglar don't get awarded BSMs...that is just the way the Army is.

1/04/2006 10:36:38 AM  
skeptik said...

I just called your Division rear detachment G-1 and asked about BSM (w/ Valor device) recipients...and guess what I found out? I can give you the name of the CPT I talked to if you really think I should.

Might be a good idea to take that shit down now...and did you register your blog?

Don't think we can track you? Did you make any entries from a government network lately? Take it down...now.

1/04/2006 10:59:05 AM  
The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Skep - I dunno what pic you're talking about, but I looked at the ones in his gallery marked "me" instead of someone else's name, and I see two pictures displaying an E-5 (Sergeant) rank, and also see OV in a tanker's outfit... so I'd wager that you picked the wrong photo to think of as him, and are incorrect about both his NCO status and his MOS. That is, unless you're accusing him of wearing the wrong insignia in combat.

Perhaps I've missed something, man, but I think you've got the wrong crusade and the wrong guy.

1/04/2006 11:37:42 AM  
skeptik said...

Also checked with 1st Cav. A Co 1-12 Cav, etc

Right B.P. Van R.?

Took a little while to get on track. Same deal. Tanker gets BSM with V?? Did he engage all the surrendering Iraqi armor and heroically save the day from his track...not sure that happened either. Just a matter of calling over to Fort Hood and asking. Like I said...no PLDC ribbon and no Good Conduct Medal on his shit. He might have been in, but is a damn poser. Reservist? Perhaps, he might not have had the chance to go to PLDC...but I doubt the claim nonetheless. No record of him getting it. Poser.

1/04/2006 12:41:19 PM  
Sara said...

Fer cryin' out loud, Skep, I didn't get to PLDC until my 4th year in. With deployments and other silly shit going on, sometimes PLDC just isn't a priority. You do know that they did away with the rule that you'd lose your stripes if you didn't attend PLDC within a year of receiving your E-5, right? You don't have to go until you're up for SSG. I dunno if you've only been in units with spectacular S-1 shops, but I don't know ANYONE who got their GCM on time. Shit, I got mine a year and a damn half late.

1/04/2006 02:03:20 PM  
The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Skeptic - The AGCM is, as far as I am aware, awarded only at the behest of the commander of that unit, and then only if the person meets the time and behavior qualifications. It's also a disqualifier if you were activated from reserve status with any gaps in your activation, as was common in the post-9/11 environment while we got sorted out which reserve and NG units would essentially become long-term active units. You're not even considered eligible for the award until three years of uninterrupted active service, according to Army regs. You should know this already, if you're as up on your shit as you claim to be. The lack of an AGCM only indicates that he was not on active-duty status since the very beginning of the war... not a claim I think he's ever made.

Lack of the PLDC ribbon, while still displaying SGT stripes, can mean several things, few of which indicate that he is lying. It only means that he either never went to school and got a field promotion, to attend Leadership school when he returned stateside, or that he never got a chance to receive his award and so did not display it in his final rack.

Finally, in a situation like Iraq, there are lots of ways in which the 19Kilo boys can help out, with or without their tanks, in a manner befitting a BSM-V. Took me a while to figure out how you guessed his unit, 'till I saw the numbers on the front of the tank (I was looking for any insignia that somehow indicated it, in the pics). Might I propose to you that perhaps it's not his tank in that shot, but the one that's in those other shots, the one that was hit with the RPG round in the side of the turret? Lots of guys pose by those... doesn't make it HIS unit.

I'm sure you could call his unit and find out, if you know what unit that was, but frankly after seeing the kind of stalker behavior you just displayed, if I were him I'd give you the bird 'til my finger wore out before I handed you a bit of my own background information.

1/04/2006 02:08:02 PM  
Sara said...

Furthermore, you didn't seem to realize that he was an E5, in a combat MOS, in 1st CAV... in fact, you didn't even notice that HE IS A VETERAN?? The name of the friggin' site is ONE VETERAN'S VOICE! And we're to believe that you're the expert?

I'm with Atheist here, I think you've picked the wrong battle. But whatever. It's a free country (for now), do what ya gotta.

1/04/2006 02:11:19 PM  
The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Maybe he confused the 3ID with III Corps, which the 1st Cav is a part of?

1/04/2006 02:29:01 PM  
OneVeteran'sVoice said...

Wow

Ok I never went to PLDC, cause I was promoted in Iraq, and I got out a few months (in June) after I got back (in March).

I never got my good conduct medal, cause my unit never filed the paper work, even though I was (and am, eligible). I also never got an ETS award (another ARCOM), cause my unit never filed the paper work.

I did get a bronze star with valor device, and I will prove that here.

My MOS was 19k, (tanker), combat.

I enlisted for two years, and was stop lossed for another year and a half. I was stop-lossed the entire time I was in Iraq.

I expect a full apology, skeptik.

1/04/2006 03:29:13 PM  
OneVeteran'sVoice said...

BTW all those tank shots as far as I am aware of are from my platoon, unless otherwise noted.

My unit was A co 1-12 CAV, 1st BDE, 1st CAV. 1st CAV is part of III Corp, but I was never in 3rd ID. Don't know how you came up with that one, skeptic.

Sorry to blow your mind, I am the real deal

Do the research.

1/04/2006 03:32:17 PM  
CutterJohn said...

Hey OVV. Got here by following a comment you left on Snag's. Thanks for your service, welcome home, and nice blog you have here.

On topic:
For a little more human perspective, this is what Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II looked like before he "came home in one coffin and two urns."

A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

1/04/2006 03:50:35 PM  
Mark Bahner said...

Hi,

Just my two cents. (Not a vet, if that makes any difference.)

"Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain?"

If I were President, the U.S. certainly would not have gone to war in Iraq. Definitely not without a Congressional Declaration of War, which as President, I would not have requested.

However, to those who argue that the lives of *all* U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been wasted, I ask:

1) Were any or all lives wasted in Korea?

2) What about those killed in action after approximately January 1945 (when it was pretty clear both the Germans and Japanese were going to lose the war)?

I don't have a firm answer to those questions, but my tentative answer is "no" (those lives weren't wasted).

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein and his sons in power. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein and his sons WOULD have been in power for at least two more decades, absent some force to take them out of power.

I think the U.S. should remove all troops from Iraq as quickly as possible (I'm talking about several months, not several years).

And I know that no words of mine can console Mr. Schroeder, nor any relative/friend of a soldier killed in Iraq. But again, I do think it's worthwhile to write that I'm convinced the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein and his sons in power...and there's no doubt in my mind they wouldn't have left voluntarily.

Best wishes,
Mark

1/04/2006 06:10:28 PM  
The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Mark - Three points:

1. We were instrumental in placing and maintaining Saddam in power because we disliked socialist-friendly Iran. So at best we were/are policing our own mistake, unleashed upon the world and the Iraqi people years ago. Worse, we betrayed the Iraqi peoples' rebellion's attempt to depose Saddam after the first Gulf War... see the film Three Kings if you know nothing of the uprisings.

2. The wars you cited, Korea and WW2, were clearly-defined conflicts with a specific purpose and a well defined victory condition (and thus, exit strategy). Both were combatting wars of aggression by foreign national powers. In this vein, you can only compare the first Gulf War to those conflicts, but not the second. Kicking Saddam out of his neighbor's territory, justified. Kicking Saddam out of his own nation by invading, tougher to justify. We know the difference between the two.

3. Back in the 1990s, I recall, there were several instances, in Africa and eastern Europe, in which the US had to act as the world's policeman, intervening in local conflicts where human rights abuses were taking place. When a Democrat President sent US forces to deal with those, every right-winger screamed about how we were not the UN's strong arm, how we were not world policemen, and how we should mind our own business. I grew up in the south, I remember it clearly. There is no doubt that the world is better without Saddam in power, but when the US attacks Saddam after installing him in power, mostly ignoring his abuses for decades while doing business with him, only fighting against him when he invaded his neighbor (and threatened our oil supply, and started dealing oil in Euros, defying us, etc), and leaving the Iraqi "bay of pigs" fighters to wither on the vine as Saddam's tanks rolled on them... it sent a pretty powerful message to the Iraqis that we care about our own power far far more than we care about them.

Not to mention, if you want to talk about the US's job being to use its military to depose nasty dictators, we'd have to invade quite a few other places we don't want to go. Why Iraq, but not Nigeria? Why not intervene in the newly-declared war between Chad and Sudan? Why not occupy and pacify the running conflicts going on in Colombia, or Somalia, or Sri Lanka? Getting a picture? If you justify Iraq on the basis of "Saddam was a bad guy and needed to go," then we'd have had to invade Chile to get out Pinochet, and so on.

War is not a monolithic thing. It is almost never a black and white issue (like, say WW2) at all, and the issue here is that we see the difference between occupying Iraq, and the justified war to pursue the bin Laden crew in Afghanistan. That's why far-lefties piss me off as much as far-righties... saying "all war is _____" (good/bad) is just as retarded. Every circumstance must be examined, and I think most of us who examine the real motivations for the attack on Iraq find that the suspicious greed motives far outweigh any of the moral goods so often cited by those who wish to justify what we have done... in other words, the war in Iraq is pretty clearly unjustified to most of our eyes. That is not to say we don't think *any* war to protect and help the Iraqi people would be wrong. Just not the way we're doing it.

Being critical of THIS war, the way it was entered into and the way it's being run at the expense of our troops and the civillians in Iraq, is not the same as being critical of US attempts to help foreign nationals against powers bigger than themselves. It's kinda what a free nation should do, I think. But as long as people say "well Saddam was bad, why don't you want a bad guy gone?", we'll never get a real chance to find solutions at the national and international level.

Thanks for your time, if you read all that! hehe

1/05/2006 08:47:44 AM  
Crazy Politico said...

The rebuttal can be found here:

http://crazypolitics.blogspot.com/2006/01/will-post-print-this.html

Though the post has refused to print it.

1/10/2006 09:11:54 AM  

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