This is all very intimate for me; hard to speak on, really.
Suffice it to say that this middling soldier gave his youth, and innocence, to what we used to call the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
I left several of my boys in the meaningless streets and fields of Iraq and Afghanistan: five killed by improvised bombs, a couple still in wheelchairs, one with a triple amputation; dozens more were shot and wounded; perhaps hundreds emotionally and morally damaged for life. Two of my troopers got themselves killed over there and didn’t even know it: a suicide and a prescription overdose…so it goes for my generation of volunteer "warriors."
It struck me, one lonely day in Afghanistan that the only thing I still believed in, the only thing I thought worth fighting for, was to protect the men in my charge and avoid needless death or killing. That should have been my first warning.
It took me ten full years to reach out to the then-pregnant wife of my closest friend and protégé, Sergeant Alex Fuller – who was killed on January 25, 2007 on the streets of East Baghdad. The delay was a function of my own moral cowardice, yes, but also reflected a tragic reality that should have served as my second warning: I had no idea how to explain to Stacy just what her young husband had died for, just what cause was worthy of the sacrifice of him.
The truth is I fought for next to nothing – we all did; for patches of ground we owned only so long as we stood upon them; for illegitimate, illiberal governments in faraway lands that posed no threat to the American way of life. It took me years to dissent, more than a dozen in fact – but here I am.
We’ve hardly finished the last ill-advised wars, and still the war drums beat anew. Now is a time for courage, for fighting, and for speaking inconvenient truth to discomfited power.
The best way to honor veterans is to create fewer of us. The fight begins with the pen, and Antiwar.com is the parchment of our times.
Please make your tax-deductible donation to Antiwar.com today, for the same reason I am honored to write for the site – because it’s a rare bastion of truth and empathy in a darkening world.
Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.
[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]