If you remember the soldier's stories coming out of the last few years of the Vietnam war, there is an eerie similarity with Afghanistan now. Troops in 'Nam became disillusioned with what they were told they were fighting for. The lies of war become apparent when one is right in the middle of it. Not following orders was common. Being told to go out on patrol often meant hiding out in the jungle and refusing to confront the 'enemy.' There were cases of fragging officers who rode them too hard. The draftees didn't want to die. No one wanted to be the last one killed.
It doesn't appear that things have reached the same point in Afghanistan as they did in Vietnam but reports are coming out that they may.
US Troops Disillusioned With Afghan War
Losing their lives in a futile war that has no obvious purpose, US troops in Afghanistan are growing depressed and deeply disillusioned with the eight-year conflict.
“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here,” Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion, told The Times on Thursday, October 8.
“They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families.”
US commanders say their soldiers are losing their morale over the ambiguous goals of the Afghan war.
“They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion.
“They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern.”
Most US soldiers don’t know the purpose of their mission in the central Asian Muslim country.
“We’re lost — that’s how I feel,” said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, who lost a friend in an attack by an Afghan policeman last week.
“I’m not exactly sure why we’re here.
“I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out here or if I’m going to die,” added Mercer, who has lost many colleagues in Taliban attacks.
A hundred soldiers of the battalion have also been flown home with amputations, severe burns and other injuries likely to cause permanent disability.
“Soldiers want definite answers, other than to stop the Taliban, because that almost seems impossible. It’s hard to catch someone you can’t see,” said Mercer.
Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, who lost six colleagues in Taliban attacks, agrees.
“If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.”
The ferocity of the war has also left its stamp on the soldiers, with many suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
“They’re tired, frustrated, scared. A lot of them are afraid to go out but will still go,” said specialist Sergeant Erika Cheney.
Many soldiers suffer nightmares, sleeplessness and anger attacks.
“Everyone you meet is just down, and you meet them everywhere — in the weight room, dining facility, getting mail,” said Captain Rico.
“It’s a very frustrating mission,” added Lieutenant Peter Hjelmstad, 2-87’s Medical Platoon Leader.
“The average soldier sees a friend blown up and his instinct is to retaliate or believe it’s for something [worthwhile], but it’s not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill.
“There’s no tangible reward for the sacrifice.”
Captain Masengale, a soldier for 12 years before he became a chaplain, is also frustrated.
“We want to believe in a cause but we don’t know what that cause is.”
The Afghan war, in addition to Iraq, is also leaving its stamp on the soldiers’ families.
“They’re killing families,” Caption Masengale said.
“Divorces are skyrocketing. PTSD is off the scale. There have been hundreds of injuries that send soldiers home and affect families for the rest of their lives.”
US commanders say that most soldiers no longer want to stay in Afghanistan.
“All they want to do is make it home alive and go back to their wives and children and visit the families who have lost husbands and fathers over here. It comes down to just surviving,” said Captain Masengale.
Sergeant Hughes has the same hope.
“If we make it back with ten toes and ten fingers the mission is successful.”
Save our present and future soldiers from their mistake of not knowing what they were doing when they signed up and a possible fate of dying or being maimed in vain.
Bring them home.