I have had my fair share of roadside bombs and mortar attacks while I was deployed to Iraq in 2004. I have also dealt with an emotional roller coaster after returning from my deployment for one year.
On March 11, an unnamed U.S. Army soldier, who served in three deployments to Iraq in addition to his current deployment to Afghanistan, left his base in the Kandahar province and massacred 16 people in a nearby village. Due to the actions of one person, however, the sacrifices of 1,787 U.S. service members who have died and the 15,460, who were wounded in that county as of March 13, have been wiped away. The Afghanistan citizens feel hurt, angry, and most of all betrayed. Their fury will be targeted towards the one symbol that has caused this pain and heartbreak: the U.S. Army uniform.
It is a major blow to U.S. relations with Afghanistan and the Middle East, and yet another swelling black eye to the U.S. Army. It will take years to repair U.S. relations with Afghanistan and to prove to the people of Afghanistan the U.S. Army is better than the actions of a lone soldier.
In the past few days, however, speculation has been running rampant on the major news networks about this 38-year-old staff sergeant who committed the crime. Media contend post traumatic stress disorder has led to this atrocity and Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord is a problem base. This incident only reaffirms suspicions. All soldiers come back with some form of emotional scars and military bases are nothing more than small cities that have the same problems any community has.
I have served in the Army for eight years, six at Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord, then known as Fort Lewis.
The media need to concentrate on this moment to report on the facts and evidence of this story as it is presented to them. They do not need to report every small bit of information gathered to spread opinions and wild conjecture from pundits as facts. Allow us to form our own opinion. This is where the story lies: To generalize soldiers to those who return from Iraq and Afghanistan as troubled souls in such a broad stroke is unfair as troubled souls who live by the values we hold dear.
This article appeared in The Morning Journal March 16.