"I don't wanna fly anymore, Doc. I've flown 35 missions, but Cathcart's raised the number to 50 before you can rotate out."
"I can't ground anyone just because they ask me to."
"Can you ground anyone who's crazy?"
"Of course I can. There's a rule that says I can ground anyone who's crazy."
"How do you know?"
"Ask anyone...They all say I'm crazy."
"I tell you who's crazy. He's crazy. Anyone has to be crazy to keep flying after all the close calls he's had."
"Why can't you ground HIM?"
"I can, but first he has to ask me."
"That's all he's gotta do to be grounded?"
"Then you can ground him."
"No...There's a catch."
"Sure. Catch 22. Anybody who wants to get out of combat isn't really crazy, so I can't ground him."
"Okay. Let me see if I've got this straight. In order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy, and I must be crazy to keep flying, but if I ask to be grounded, it means I'm not crazy anymore and I have to keep flying."
"You got it. That's Catch 22."
"That's some catch, that Catch 22."
"It's the best there is."
It was just an exquisite irony that our copy of Time magazine arrived in the mail on the same night that my husband got in the mood to watch the DVD of Catch 22.
On the cover was a Prozac capsule, and half of the capsule was camouflage green.
The headline read: "The Military's Secret Weapon."
The subtitle? "For the first time in history, thousands of U.S. troops are being given antidepressant drugs to deal with battlefield stress. Is this any way to fight a war?"
The story, by Mark Thompson, is available online.
The article is about the terrible toll taken on our military fighting forces under the repeated demands of constant deployments, over and over again, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
How suicides in-country have skyrocketed.
How each successive deployment becomes harder and harder on the emotional health of our troops; how after they get back, they are suffering worse symptoms of post traumatic stress with each deployment.
How -- when they report symptoms (if they even report them at all) of anxiety, restlessness, depression, irritability and short temper, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and other problems directly related to combat -- the military in all its ancient wisdom responds by prescribing record amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleeping medications.
How, for the first time in history, soldiers and Marines are heading off to combat situations with up to a third of them taking these medications while deployed.
Before, if a troop was showing severe signs of stress on the battlefield, he or she would be medivaced out and given treatment at a hospital. But the soldiers and Marines are stretched so thin right now that, increasingly, the military is relying on these medications to treat the soldiers, so that they can be kept in combat.
Understand that this is not a criticism of the military or of the troops. I want to make that perfectly clear.
My family members have served a total of seven tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and they tell me how much harder it is to go back each successive time. I can see for myself the problems they have readjusting.
I also do not mean to imply that these fine young men and women are not capable of performing their jobs magnificently under intense pressure -- although studies have shown that repeated deployments, extended deployments, and less time at home do lead to more mistakes being made and the greater likelihood that a troop will be killed or get someone else killed due to the fatigue and stress.
But the fact is that when you are in a combat situation, you do not have access to psychologists or even M.D.'s. Many times, these drugs are provided for the guys on their deployments but there is nobody to monitor the dose, side effects, or even to provide a modicum of counseling for handling the stress that has provoked the need in the first place.
Our military is doing the best it can, under impossible conditions, to maintain a groaning level of troops without a national draft that could replenish the forces that are constantly demanded by our civilian commander-in-chief to fight his war the way he wants it fought.
The troops are exhausted, their families unraveling, and stress symptoms skyrocketing. They're stretched so thin that even if a troop tries to commit suicide while stateside between deployments -- even if he or she is committed to a psychiatric facility, even if he or she is being treated for serious PTSD -- he or she will still be sent back.
In the Time magazine article previously mentioned, an army doctor purportedly remarked to Joyce Raezer of the National Military Family Association: "Boy, it's really nice to have these drugs, so we can keep people deployed."
In fact, troops who were blown up in a previous deployment and are undergoing physical therapy or surgery for their injuries are sent back anyway -- sometimes just days following operations. (A nephew to actress Mia Farrow was recently flown out of Baghdad to undergo surgery, then returned to the battlefield right after being released from the hospital, while still on a liquid diet. He died in his sleep not long after, in Iraq.)
With this in mind, I have the following message for Clinton supporters:
Angry Hillary supporters are starting up websites pledging support to John McCain. The Republican Party is understandably salivating over this, and planning a ClintonsforMcCain drive. Just in this past week, thousands have visited these Web sites.
One Web site founder was quoted as saying: "People feel upset, and not listened to, and a lot of people feel they're being thrown under the bus."
And so, in their rage, they are planning to vote for John McCain. Some are so angry they say they won't even vote for Obama even if Hillary is on the ticket with him.
I assume that most of the men and women who are signing up on these angry websites are mothers and fathers.
So, from one mother to another, I am begging you...
Since 99.5% of this nation's population is not fighting Bush's War, then I must assume that 99.5% of the angry Hillary supporters do not have loved ones fighting in Bush's War, either.
And since John McCain has pledged to continue that war for years and years, or until his vague and unspecified "victory" conditions are met, then I assume these same moms and dads, who do not have to face the agony of sending their child away to die or get blown to pieces, not once, but repeatedly... have not actually thought about what that vote would mean.
Did you know that, in order to shield Americans from dead troops, the flag-draped caskets, which are often flown in the cargo holds of commercial airliners from Dover to their homes, are hidden in cardboard boxes?
We treat our pets better in this country.
So I'm assuming that the angry Hillary supporters who feel "upset" and "not listened to" might then be able to empathize with desperate military mothers who do have to deal with these fears, because nobody listens to the troops, or their families, either.
How do you think they feel?
I am an Obama supporter, but you better believe I'd have voted for Hillary in a heartbeat over John McCain. I wouldn't care how angry, or upset or vengeful and resentful I felt, because there is a whole helluva lot more at stake here than my hurt feelings, when it comes to men and women being given drugs to numb their anxiety about having to fight a third or fourth time in a war that might send them home in a cardboard box.
In her graceful and eloquent concession speech, Hillary Clinton -- while urging her supporters to rally behind Obama -- compared the Democratic Party to "a family."
I know that, in my own family, with my sisters and brother, we've had many fights -- some bitter, some just annoying -- but none of us have ever done anything that might bring actual harm to another member of our family. We would never dream of it.
Recently, I hailed a friend of mine at the bank. Her son did a deployment to Iraq with the army National Guard, and had been home, and back in civilian life for two years now. Everything was fine, but when I asked how she was doing, she said, "Well, my son is going to have to go back to Iraq this summer." (The National Guard is being asked to replace returning "surge" units in order to maintain these pre-surge troop levels.)
I was shocked, and sorry, and she said, "I keep telling myself, he's going to be fine. He's going to come back. He's going to be fine."
And then she burst into tears.
A vote for John McCain is a vote for insanity.
It is a vote to continue this Groundhog Day Catch-22 war.
I am begging you.
Please, please do not let the emotion of the moment cause you to hand the reins of power over to a man under whose watch more and more flag-draped caskets will be flown home in cardboard boxes.
"You admit you have a persecution complex."
"I admit I'm being persecuted."
"But who, specifically, is THEM?"
"Who do you think?"
"I haven't any idea."
"Then how do you know they AREN'T? Those bastards are trying to kill me!"
"You ought to get your head examined."
-- Catch 22, the movie. Remarks made by Alan Arkin's Yossarian to Martin Sheen's Dobbs.
I know that Hillary supporters are feeling persecuted.
They think that somebody is trying to kill them -- psychically speaking.
But as a military mom, I can tell you that real people are trying to kill my family members and others in Bush's War.
According to a recent survey in the Army Times, more than 60% of military families now think the Iraq war was a mistake and want it to end.
In another survey done of junior officers, well over three-fourths of the officers -- close to 80 percent -- disagreed with the way the war had been handled. Most of them do not stay in the military -- even though they want to -- because they do not want to go back to Iraq.
WHO IS LISTENING TO THEM?
You don't have to like Obama, or even do as Hillary asks, which is to put your passion and energy into putting a Democrat into the White House, even if it's not her. But please, if you can't vote for him, stay home.
Do not put a man in the White House who will continue this insanity of a war.
Because that would be truly crazy... wouldn't it?