Before sending over another 20,000 troops to Iraq, let's stop for a moment and consider the life of great patriot and a great American hero, Ismael Solorio. When he was 17, Mr. Solorio, a high school honor student, passed up several college scholarships to join the Army. In November 2004 in Iraq, he was shot in the head by a sniper. The bullet entered the side of his face and shattered his jaw and teeth. He was awarded a Purple Heart for bravery.
On his subsequent deployment to Iraq, Mr. Solorio was hit by shrapnel from a roadside bomb. He was awarded a second Purple Heart. He died on April 9, 2007, during his third deployment in Iraq. Sgt. Solorio, the son of migrant farm workers, left behind his parents, his siblings, his wife and young daughter. "My brother was diagnosed with PTSD, extreme depression," his sister said, "and still he was sent back." He was 21.
You would need a heart of stone not to feel humbled and saddened by Sgt. Solorio's sacrifice. You would also be guilty of willful blindness if you did not wonder if Sgt. Solorio's third deployment was a form of reckless endangerment.
Think about it for a second. How could a 21-year-old kid who was shot in the head, lost his teeth, had his jaw shattered, injured his hand, and who spent most his adult life in Iraq or in rehab (do the math) not have post traumatic stress? How could anyone have gone through that and be physically equipped for a third tour?
Sgt. Solorio's story is part of a dirty little secret uncovered by Mark Benjamin for Salon here and here. Because there is no one else to around to "give the surge a chance," the Army must resort to sending those who are unfit by any conscionable standard.
Consider Matthew Zeimer, a young soldier mentioned by Lawrence Korb in his recent Senate testimony. He joined from the 1st Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division on December 18, 2006. He was one of 150 soldiers who joined the unit right out of basic training. Since his brigade was sent to Iraq in January 2007, he missed the brigade's intensive four-week pre-Iraq training at the national training center at Fort Irwin, California and got 10-day course instead. He was killed on Feb. 2 after being at his first combat post for just two hours. He was eighteen.
Dr. Korb mentioned others:
"The 3rd Division's 3rd Brigade was sent back to Iraq [in April] for the third time
after spending less than 11 months at home. In order to meet personnel
requirements the brigade sent some 75 soldiers with medical problems into the
war zone. These include troops with serious injuries and other medical problems,
including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Medical
records show that some are too injured to wear their body armor."
As Abraham Lincoln once said, it all comes down to the "terrible arithmetic of war." One of those immutable rules of arithmetic is you can't win an extended war of attrition with a volunteer army. How many fewer able-bodied soldiers will we have one year from now? And how many battle-weary veterans will our military keep recycling as if they were aluminum cans?