"Duty is ours; consequences our God's."
--Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
I began writing this entry last week after the shooting at Fort Hood occurred. This morning, I turned my computer on and went to Yahoo news and began searching the headlines for facts about the shooting, the condition of the victims, the situation in general. There were ten headline stories about Hollywood: I now know that Kim and Kanye are spending $125,000 on each of their wedding guests. My life is officially enriched (insert sarcasm). There were six stories about gay marriage and how if you disagree with their right to wed, you are a bigot. There were three headlines about adorable Prince George and Kate Middleton's amazing hair. There was, however, no information, no update, no headline regarding this seemingly already forgotten tragedy.
My husband and I have friends at almost every Army post in the nation. The Army is a small, close-knit community and if you stay in long enough, you can't help but meet people, who know people, who knew those people, who you know from somewhere else. The 'smallness' of the military world is intrinsic to it's uniqueness. The familiarity of its people is one of the most beautiful aspects of military life: you never move anywhere that you don't know somebody. Friendships are fast, real and last a lifetime.
But the true treasure of the military life, beyond the friendships, beautiful duty assignments, and the cool cultural experiences, is the camaraderie of the soldiers. My husband isn't a social butterfly. In fact, I could describe him as almost too quiet, almost too reserved, almost a bit anti-social. (Needless to say, he married his opposite!) He doesn't have many close friends and doesn't require much 'guy time'. But there is something special about the relationships he developed with the men he served with in the Army. There is a bond; a lifelong, deep, never-changing respect and admiration for each other that most in the civilian world can't understand and won't ever have the opportunity to experience.
Something unique is formed between men when their lives are at stake and all they possess is their faith in God and trust in one another. Something is created when two people see each other respond instinctively in a selfless and heroic manner during the chaos of battle. Something exists between individuals when they experience the trials and tribulations of combat together, side by side. The reality of war is brutal and bloody. In battle, loss of life is unavoidable, for both soldier and civilian. In war, the dead are mourned. The wounded, sometimes forgotten. The survivors, forever changed. That is why there is a special bond created before, during, and in the aftermath of war; a brotherhood where only the most honorable, the most brave, the most loyal find solace.
This noble brotherhood, this camaraderie, is why the reality of what has happened at Fort Hood, twice, is so unbelievable. When an American soldier is killed, senselessly murdered, at the hands of another soldier; at home, safely in America, on a military installation, it is unimaginable. It is a betrayal of trust: a devastating and inconceivable act of violence.
However, with all of that said, when I first married into the Army, someone explained to me that the military is "simply a cross-section of society". Our armed forces are comprised of men and women from all over the world. There are individuals from differing socio-economical, education, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Each member of our military is similar in their willingness to serve our nation but the reasons that drive them to serve vary greatly. Many are driven by the noble desire of selfless service: duty, honor, country. Others are motivated by the educational benefits afforded to them through the GI Bill and see a 4-year enlistment as a way to better their station of life in the long term. While others see a short term commission as an officer as an excellent way to pay back their staggering student debt while at the same time, learning leadership and organizational skills that will benefit them in the civilian workforce. And, let's just be honest: there are others who need to get away from small-town USA and distance themselves from "that group", "that girl" or "that lifestyle". All of these individuals, motivated by different things, once in uniform, are united as one--one amazing military force to be reckoned with.
But the reality of their diversity doesn't fade away with a short hair cut, freshly shaven face and camouflaged attire. The underlying issues that bring some of our service members into the military are still present. I say all of this because I feel like it will be easy for liberals and pundits to blame this horrific act of violence on Mr. Lopez's 4 month tour in Iraq, the war on terrorism in general, the over-stressed military force, the stigma of mental illness within the military community, the .45 caliber pistol, or George W. Bush. But in reality, none of those things or people pulled the trigger. Mr. Lopez did.
I am sure this tragedy will raise more questions than it will provide answers. In the coming days, (if the media gets bored with Hollywood and Obamacare's supposed success,) we will tire from hearing the terms PTSD and gun control while pundits on television offer up their opinions and diagnoses. The liberals and gun control activists will blame the gun, not the shooter. Legislators will offer up their condolences and go into "reactionary mode". Psychiatrists and psychologists will attempt to explain the shooter's behavior with all sorts of statistics and 19-letter-long mental conditions. But my fear is that in the frenzy to find an explanation and an understanding of the shooter and his motives (or lack thereof), we will forget about SGT Timothy Owens, SFC Danny Ferguson, SGT Carlos Lazaney and the other sixteen injured victims.
When an American soldier is killed in a foreign land by a foreign enemy, it is heartbreaking. The family is devastated, the military grieves a fallen brother and our country mourns a lost hero. But Fort Hood isn't foreign soil and SPC Lopez wasn't an enemy fighter. These brave men and one woman were home, resting in the comfort of American safety and security. They were at ease; visiting buildings at what should be one of the safest places on the planet. And yet, evil touched them. The actions of one evil, deluded man, stripped those brave Americans of their lives and their freedoms. And Mr. Lopez's moment of psychosis and rage, changed his legacy of heroism to that of being a deranged, suicidal killer. I wish I had answers or some amazing words of comfort, but I am at a loss.
My husband was a Cavalryman in the Army. Yes, he wore a stetson and earned his spurs in combat. And before each of his deployments, there was talk among the troopers of a place call Fiddler's Green. During our time in the Army, I never asked what Fiddler's Green was or looked it up on the internet--I never wanted to know why the troopers talked of eventually meeting up there. Last week I Googled the term and this is what I found: Fiddler's Green is a place where fallen troopers gather. A place where heroes sit around, drink from their canteens and tell stories of war to the tune of a fiddle that never ceases to play. It is a place of unending happiness and continuous dancing. A place for soldiers to find rest and peace. A place where those in the noble brotherhood of the American military converge to spend eternity among each other. For Christians, a place like Heaven. In my mind, I imagine a "SOLDIER'S CLUB" with very exclusive entry: dog tags, short hair and combat boots required. I can see a basic concrete block construction, bad, florescent lightning, and tactical maps and white boards hanging on the walls. I can smell the musty odor.
I pray that SGT Timothy Owens, SFC Danny Ferguson and SGT Carlos Lazaney are sitting around an old, wooden table and reminiscing about their glory days. I hope they know they were loved by their families and appreciated by a grieving country. I hope they are meeting up with fellow heroes; heroes, from all generations, that departed this life on a battlefield while sacrificing for our grateful nation. I pray that these brave men are at peace and have found at last, a safe, secure place to spend an eternity in perfect freedom.