Illusion - Delusion: When Will the Madness Stop?
ILLUSION - DELUSION - when will the madness stop?
By: Monica Benderman and Dawn Beals
Fort Stewart, Georgia--Home of the Mighty Third Infantry Division. The ROCK OF THE MARNE--Where soldiers across post can be heard singing the 3rd Infantry Division theme song every morning at reveille:
"...I wouldn't trade my old OD's, for all the Navy dungarees, for I'm the walking pride of Uncle Sam...
... on all the posters that I read, It says "Be all that you can: So they're tearing me down, To build me over again...
... I'm just a dog face soldier, with a rifle on my shoulder, and I eat raw meat, For breakfast every day...
... So feed me ammunition, Keep me in the Third Division, Your dog face soldier's a-okay."
History has it that the mighty 3rd ID earned their nickname, Rock of the Marne, during a stand-off against the German army on July 15, 1918, standing their ground in France, "like a rock at the Marne (river)" according to General Pershing.
Today, those in command of the 3rd ID seem to believe that they were at the Marne. They have forgotten that to have the honor, they must EARN the honor. They are far from deserving to continue to be called the "rock of the marne." Today, it seems, their tradition is more in keeping with the Disney designed "dog face soldier" caricature that is their mascot, than the honor of the fighting spirit that their predecessors stood their ground for so many years ago.
"Rocky", the "heroic, but humble; fierce but gentle; quick-witted and wise, with confidence and dignity that comes from having proved himself" (according to Maj. Gen. Albert O. Connor, who visualized the mascot), came to be in August 1965, with a contract purchased from Disney for a one-dollar bill signed by the Division's Sgt. Major at the time. "Rocky" stands poised, with a rifle on his shoulder, across the parking lot in front of the 3rd ID Headquarters here at Ft. Stewart in the middle of a small park with a "picture-perfect" setting.
Two blocks down, in front of the not quite 2-year-old PX complex, there is a memorial of another kind. One hundred and ninety one small iridescent blue pinwheels spin in the breeze, clustered together on the grassy corner of the PX parking lot. There is a sign in front announcing that these pinwheels commemorate the 191 confirmed cases of child abuse that have occurred in the 3rd Division (between Ft. Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield) in the year between the soldiers returning from their first Iraq deployment and the time of their second deployment this past January.
One block past that, on Warrior Walk, there are now 100 newly planted trees: every tree to honor the life of one Ft. Stewart soldier who has died in Iraq since the invasion. “A life for a life.” Standing there watching mothers, wives and sons and daughters reaching out to touch the tree that stands where their loved one could have, the sacrifice grows deeper, and the question of “why” remains unresolved.
The power of illusion. Beautiful Ft. Stewart military garrison. Nestled in Georgia pine forests, with training grounds all around that double as nature trails where hunting and fishing abound. The soldiers' barracks are still new, and more military housing is being built as we speak. Where the new PX offers clothing lines from Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, cookware from LaCrueset, body products from Victoria Secret, and cigarettes and alcohol are not taxed. Churches, day cares, grade schools, laundries, night clubs, fast food restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, sports facilities, auto repair centers, post office, banks, libraries - even a furniture store are all available to soldiers and families now, without ever leaving the installation.
Illusions -- Delusions.
As soldiers and their families become more isolated from the civilian sector, with everything they could possibly want being offered on post, it is easy for them to lose their real connection with the civilian world, and easier still for the military to hide what it does not want the civilian world to see.
Soldiers and their families sacrifice their lives to their country long before they ever set foot on the battlefield, and most don't even realize it until it is too late. When it's time to ask for help, it's not the civilian world they go to; it's their commander, or their next-in-line supervisor. Too often these days, in the stress that has become a military "at war", the supervisor turns a blind eye, and the soldier is sent on his way. Too often what should be seen as a cry for help, is seen as malingering, and punished as a disciplinary problem. The soldier is ordered to speak about it to no one, and worse - the soldier is ordered to forget the problem ever existed. We knew about the 191 cases of child abuse on Ft. Stewart because we had access to the road that steered past the memorial to those cases. Does anyone know what has been done to alleviate the pain of the children abused? Did anyone away from Ft. Stewart hear their cry? Does anyone care to notice, and will anyone dare to help?
This week, a soldier from the 3rd ID returned for 2 weeks R and R from Iraq. Once home, he was arrested on a DUI charge. Has anyone heard? Does anyone care to know what drove him to drink and drive? Chances are his counseling will be his return trip to Iraq, and no one will know that it was most likely knowing that he had to return, that caused him to drink at all.
Soldiers are losing their humanity. Soldiers are losing their soul. Does anyone care? Can anyone see? Their families see, but their families are fooled into believing that it is the sacrifice they make for having volunteered for the military. There are families who actually believe that there is honor in their struggle.
ILLUSION - DELUSION - when will the madness stop?
Soldiers are fighting to stay alive. Soldiers are giving in, and trying to die. Soldiers are losing their soul, and they have been fooled into believing that they are gaining honor.
Please read the excerpts of a letter from a soldier’s wife that follows. It is one story, but it is the story of many. It is all too prevalent in this day, at this time.
Soldiers in wars from the last 200 years have given their lives to defend this country's freedom, and its constitution. Soldiers and their families have sacrificed more than anyone can imagine in the name of freedom for all citizens of this country. This sacrifice is not without a price, and it's time the debt of all of these men and women is paid - for it is a debt long overdue, and growing by the day. It's time for America to defend its soldiers for a change. It's time for America to take a long look at what they are willing to give in exchange for the sacrifice our soldiers and their families have made.
Read on- I DARE YOU - take a stand to prevent this bad dream from becoming a nightmare for us all.
“My name is Dawn Marie Beals. I am the wife of SPC. David Beals, Bravo Company, 3rd Forward Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Stewart, Georgia, Previously Rear Det, Fox Co, 2-7 Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.I am writing this letter in concern for my Soldier as well as the thousand other Soldiers suffering the way my husband has and is currently suffering. My husband is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Balad, Iraq.My husband suffers from Combat Stress Disorder.
This is his second deployment with the 3rd Infantry Division to Iraq. He has suffered with this horrible disease since August 2003. On 7 January 2005 my husband tried to take his own life.
When my husband was at Winn, before even being properly evaluated he was told by Dr. Capp, that he was just malingering like all of the rest to get out of the deployment and that he would be charged with malingering.He told my husband that he was going to deploy that week if he had to go from the hospital to the plane in shackles and chains. Another physician who evaluated my husband wrote that he suffered from Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety with the disturbance of mood, emotion, and conduct.
On 11 January my husband was picked up by one of his Non Commissioned Officers to go home to pack his bags so that he could deploy. Yes, deploy only 4 days after attempting suicide. My husband went AWOL that day
Although he stayed AWOL 9 days, from day 1 he stayed in continuous contact with his Commander. He stated to Cpt. DiogoTavares, his Rear Det. Company commander, that he was concerned with his mental well being and said he felt that he needed treatment and did not think that he could make it thru another deployment again without such. He stated he felt numb, like he had no control and just felt like he couldn't take it anymore.
On his own, he returned to his unit at Ft. Stewart. He was told by Cpt. Tavares that he would receive treatment before being made to deploy; that he could stay as long as mental health felt he needed treatment. My husband went to his counselor, Mrs. Barnett, who said that he suffered from CSD and needed to be in her treatment program which would run into April.
Mrs. Barnett called Cpt. Tavares on 22 February 2005. My husband never heard a response from anyone regarding his mental health class, so I sent an email and asked Cpt. Tavares if she had contacted him. He said yes, she had called and he would deploy on 15 March 2005, that he could get his treatment for this disease in 2 weeks instead of the 5 weeks she had told him he would need.
My husband was given an Article 15 disciplinary action, lost his promotion to Sergeant and he has been tagged by his subordinates as someone who went AWOL, all because he cried out for help.
Two months after attempting to take his own life, he was put on a plane to deploy to a war zone with the same individuals who would not help him, and he remains suicidal. When he was received in country, and he spoke to the command there about receiving help that was promised, he had comments made to him by 1SG Donald McClinton, that the Rear Detachment commander had lied to him (He was given written order when he deployed he would not have to go back to this company.)
He was put in a TOC(Tactical Operations Center) to sit because they didn't think he should be in the motor pool. The 1SG would pop his head in and out regularly and ask if he was ok, "you aren't going to hurt yourself are you?" and laugh and leave the room. Did everyone forget?
He wasn't running, he was asking for help and scared and no one would do as they should have and helped him? He asked for help, no one would help, he got scared and ran.
My husband has been told in the past few weeks that he was going to be sent back to the Company he came from, because the Command cannot find where his Article 15 went to show he actually was punished and that his old command will promote him to sergeant, and then punish him again, as a sergeant. Help them, don't hurt them. My husband will probably never receive a promotion to SGT while he remains at Ft. Stewart because he has been tagged not for his disease but for AWOL. That is all anyone sees. What the soldiers see is to be told by your platoon leaders that half of you will not return home from war and that they “don't want to have to deal with shipping your Sh** back home to your families.”
Yet, after everything my husband still wants to be a Soldier. He is the better man. So, I am asking you to PLEASE help my Soldier and all other Soldiers in his situation. And I can just pray that someone will finally stand up and take responsibility before he becomes another statistic of an American suicide in Iraq. Very Sincerely,Dawn Marie Beals
Please read Dawn Marie’s letter in its entirety at
Spc. David Beals serves in the same unit as Sgt. Kevin Benderman.
Kevin and Monica Benderman may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org