For many years those in the private security contracting industry have argued loudly that the people who carry guns in the field are not mercenaries. And they are exactly right, as I have noted many times in the past.
To fight our insane wars, we're wrecking our soldiers' ability to live with themselves and function in society, then regulating what's left of them with chemicals, which often make things immeasurably worse.
When you constantly pick the same people with similar backgrounds to serve and lead, it's hard for new and different ideas to be considered -- or even discussed. There is a value to different perspectives that come from different experiences, including a minority experience.
Sgt. Bales is a prime example: he had been sent into battle, faced death, then came home to comfort and safety. Then he was thrust back into battle, facing bombs and bullets and possible death once more, then home to comfort and safety. Again and again.
There are days in Afghanistan when U.S. and Afghan forces are not in firefights with insurgents, neither are they sniffing out roadside bombs, or raiding weapons caches. Sometimes they're just dancing.
The figure for "wounded" constantly cited by politicians and the media does not come close to reflecting the real cost to the servicemembers who went to fight and will never be the same again. We owe it to them to make a full accounting of their sacrifice -- and then never forget it.
There are so many civilians who deploy alongside us, who wear bulletproof vests, sometimes carry weapons and run for cover when the mortars hit, who may never be thanked for their service, simply because they don't wear the same uniform we do.
He died on a mountainside, far away from home. We were hours into the mission when insurgents ambushed our squad. They marred the beauty of that crisp, emerald morning with rocket-propelled grenades, chased by hellfire. He was the first one hit. He died instantly.