Thursday, March 27, 2008

4000 Isn't Just A Number

Now that the death toll from Iraq for our soldiers is over 4,000 after five years, pundits and politicians take a day to discuss the number, what it means and what to do about it based on their view of the war and if it is effective or not. Often, the people on TV overlook the fact that it isn't just a number, it signifies loss of loved ones and tragically for the Velez family, the loss of two brothers. Though this isn't simply about two men dying on the battlefield, this story is far worse.

From Details Magazine:

Andrew Velez idolized his older brother, Freddy. So when Freddy joined the Army and went to fight in the Middle East, Andrew followed. Now both brothers are dead—but only one of them is being called a hero.

Three A.M., a few nights before Christmas, 2004. The war in Iraq is approaching its second anniversary, and the conflict in Afghanistan is into year four. A soldier sits in a small suburban house. He is a baby-faced 21-year-old but has a look of exhaustion that can’t be concealed. He should feel safe here. But the young man has lost his ability to reason. He closes his eyes as if to tune out the chatter from the other people in the room, and when he opens them, he snaps. “The hajjis are coming!” he screams. “The hajjis are coming!”

To those around him it’s clear that Army Specialist Andrew Velez has been sucked into some dark corner of his mind. “They’re coming!” he repeats. “They’re coming!” Andrew stands up and runs around the house, turning off all the lights. A young woman is standing nearby, and Andrew ushers her into a bedroom, hollering at her to duck for cover. He drops to the floor and slides across the room on his stomach. At some point he produces a rifle, albeit an imaginary one, and squeezes the invisible trigger. “I’m not gonna die!” he shouts. “I’m not gonna die!” Then Andrew runs for the back door. The woman chases him. When she steps outside, Andrew pulls her to the ground to protect her from enemy fire. “I’m not gonna die!” he screams. “I’m coming home to see my babies!”

That is just the beginning of this sad and disturbing article. Andrew's brother died in Iraq and was labeled a hero, but they turn a blind eye to Andrew and the effect of the war on him. This a must-read account of what war can do to people.

Truly horrific.