Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Letter


Wife comes up to me at work yesterday (We work at the same office, just in different departments). She says she has to talk to me. She produces a letter, forwarded to me by my parents, and which they opened before they sent it to me.

The return address says "Department of the Army."

I can't describe here the abject terror that that sight put into me. Next thing I know, I've jumped back about three feet, and my wife has to reassure me that it's not a deployment order. I haven't been IRR'ed, she tells me, but she goes on to add that she would like to talk to me more about this when I get a moment.

The letter, as it turns out, is an address verification request. In order to maintain their records, the letter tells me, Human Resources Command needs to know where I'm at, should I need to be called up during a "national emergency." Enclosed is an address form, which I am instructed to complete and return within ten days of reception.

I've been out for three months now.

This means two things, of course. First, it means that my parents have once again denied my request to not forward any government mail. Not only have they denied my request, but they actually opened and READ it, against my orders, and then sent it to me, without so much as a call. No, "Hey, what should we do with this," or "Hey, you got a letter from the Army coming." Nothing. So of course, rather than confront me on the subject--obviously, we disagree--they've just decided to drop the bomb on me without a word. Thanks, guys.

Number two: it also means that the Army is already wanting to get back into my life. I've only been out three months, and already they're sniffing around, wanting to know where I am. They say it's just, "in the event of a national emergency," but frankly I think that two wars of dubious intent and execution, qualify. I also know that the Army doesn't really draw any such distinction. So while they SAY it's just a formality, I've been around long enough to know better. If they know who to call in case of a hurricane, they know who to call in the case of a pending IRR call-up for Iraq. And let me tell you, I'm not likely to be laying down any Mabey-Johnson bridge down in Galveston.

So I think we all know what this means.

I've been dwelling on what to do all day. On the one hand, part of me says: "No. Fuck them. They lied to me and everyone I've ever cared about. They're not gonna know where I live. They can go fuck themselves." On the other hand, what have I got to lose? I've already stated that I won't be going back. What's the worst that can happen--I fill out the form, they send deployment orders to my house, and I refuse to report? Either way, I'm going to be fucked out of my money for college. So what do I have to lose?

I dunno. I shouldn't even have to be worried about this. I have a new job, where I've been recently promoted, and a wife to worry about. The Army nearly broke me, nearly killed me. I looked at my options, and decided "No. This isn't who I am anymore." And yet, not even a fiscal quarter after my departure, they've decided that they still want to keep tabs on me. This is the great crime at the core of today's military: even after you do your time, even if you were a good soldier who decided that this wasn't for him anymore, that doesn't matter. You're Uncle Sam's bitch now.

Even after everything else, you're still just a pawn, a warm body. I learned long ago that that was all Uncle Sam ever saw me as.

So I have a choice: Either throw the form out, and wait for my parents to sell me up the river; OR, fill out the form and send it in, and then tell the Army to kiss my ass when they send orders to my door. Either way, the answer is still no. I'm not fucking going back. Not now. Not next year.

Not. Ever.

I gave those bastards my all. All for a war that amounted to lies. And still it wasn't enough.


Seven of Six said...

You were lied to about the war... you were lied to about how long you were going to be in Iraq... if this comes to fruition you would be lied to again... I say not again!

This is what I would do.

"Fill the form out..."

Get a rubber stamp made up... 3/8th inch lettering... make it look as professional as the Army does... in dark purple ink, stamp "conscientious objector" on the paper!!!

"... and send it in, and then tell the Army to kiss my ass when they send orders to my door."

What can they do... you'll be lawyered up... you can still get your schooling started... I'll bet you get an honorable discharge.

In this day and age, if I'd seen the letter... I would have evacuated my bowel system, rather quickly.

iamcoyote said...

I just heard Obama on MTP reiterate that he's going to sit down with the Joint Chiefs the day he's sworn in and get the ball rolling to get out of Iraq. Deployments are slowing down, not building up, I believe. And don't let the talk about Afgh. scare you, either. Obama's not planning on a huge buildup there. If he makes Richard Clarke CIA chief, (hope, hope), it'll slowly scale down to SpecOps, small teams. As it should be. Obama's not going to telegraph that right now, though, is he?

Anyhow, I can empathize with your parents, though they should have called with a heads up, rather than just send the letter on. If it shocked them enough to open it - think how many times while you were gone, they dreaded any official notice from the gov't - I'm sure just seeing the letter evokes a visceral response much like SoS's loosened bowels!

I think you should fill out the form and send it in; it's a fact of life that once you're in the military, you're bagged and tagged by the US for pretty much ever. I know I am. My ex is. But this notice of the IRR - that's normal. It actually is wanting to know who might be available for help during floods and fires, and hurricanes, like it was meant to be. Trained people for community service. Also, I believe you're still entitled to some benefits for your time and toil in Iraq, and they need to find you to sign up for those. Right now, you don't want to be connected to the Army, but you are. Might as well grab your due - especially as a new admin comes in. If they pass a more generous GI bill and make it retroactive for Iraq vets, you could get tuition money. That'd be a good thing, right?

Obama just announce Gen. Shinsiki as the new Vet affairs chief. SoS, we know he famously said we'd need more troops in Iraq and was fired for it. How does he play amongst vets in the know? Good for vets?

Seven of Six said...

How does he play amongst vets in the know? Good for vets?

He's 2 tour Vietnam Veteran, injured in Nam, stepped on a land mine... blew part of his foot off. First Asian-American to be a 4 star general and Joints Chief leader. From what I've heard very well respected, wouldn't get into a fight without the proper gear and properly manned Army.

As long he works on getting claims expedited and not have them shredded, I'm sure he will be an improvement.

iamcoyote said...

But this notice that reminded you of the IRR - that's normal.

Fixed, sorta. I just meant that it's normal to get an instant gut-punch feelings from normal military bureaucratic paperwork. Yes, the Bushies fucked with the rules like no one's ever fucked with the rules before, but this change of address is normal.

Judith said...

"I can't describe here the abject terror that that sight put into me. Next thing I know, I've jumped back about three feet."

I am not making light of your experience Milo, but that is the same response I get when a letter comes with IRS on the envelope. Either sender usually means they want something from you. Fill it out and move on.

By-the-way, Seven of Six may be right. "Conscientious objector" may be something to investigate, just in case.

Anjha said...

Milo, thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

I believe, that it might actually be to your benefit to fill out a "change of address."

Like Coyote says - they need to know where you are so that you can get the benefits that you have earned.

My dad is 74 years old and has not been in the Reserves/Guard since the early sixties. (I do not know which it was that he went to after active army - I believe it was the Guard "1 weekend a month and 2 weeks a year..")

Anyhow - he still lets them know where he is because of Veteran's benies. Even though he does not use them.

Now, mostly, he gets shit from VFW and stuff like that, because he does not use Veterans medical care, but the army knows where he is.

Regardless of how fundamental this seems to all of us ("oh, Milo, it's just a change of address form...") I understand that to you it is not - it is a complete visceral response that probably feels to you like the piece of paper in your hand is an actual time-warp transporter directly back to the desert. I am sorry that I do not really "get" that, that I do not understand what that feeling is.

The only things that I can relate it to are my own experiences with PTSD bullshit. Books or letters that I have read or movies that I have watched or pictures that I have looked at that transport me back to the experience that I would much rather leave encapsulated in some little box in my gut. I know how that is. It is not the same, I am certain, with what you are going through...the people who I am avoiding or do not want to show up at my front door...are not people who can grab me and send me off to the place in my gut that for me is only a "memory."

Thank you again for sharing your experience with us. I hope that you share more.