Over the course of the next several weeks and months the media spotlight will probe into the deepest corners of the life of Sgt. Robert Bales. Sgt. Bales, a 38 year old 10-year veteran, is accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in their sleep. He is being portrayed in the media as a good family man and loyal soldier who succumbed to the stress of a third combat tour. Sgt. Bales will be tried by a military tribunal and could face the death penalty.
As Sgt. Bales’ trial unfolds we will hear discussions about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and the affects of multiple deployments on our troops. We will hear about the skyrocketing increase in suicides, divorces and mental breakdowns among those who have served in combat. We will learn that our military is stretched to the breaking point; that many of our men and women serve two, three and four combat deployments, with as many as six and seven deployments for our special operations forces. The horrible cost of war will be laid bare for all to see.
And this is a good thing; because for too long now most of us paid very little attention to the real price of war in the Middle East.
Make no mistake; there will be nay-sayers. They will tell you that the incident surrounding Sgt. Bales has been blown out of proportion. They will say that many soldiers face multiple combat tours without going off and murdering civilians. They find a PTSD defense far too convenient. Perhaps they are right in this case. Time will tell.
We don’t know what went through Sgt. Bales mind that night. We don’t know what caused him to take that particular path. We don’t excuse his alleged actions. And we do not intend to diminish the devastating effect his actions have on not only the families of the victims but on Sgt. Bales’ family as well. We only hope that as the details of this terrible incident play out in the press they will catch the attention of a disinterested public.
For far too long the people of this country, and their elected leaders, have allowed the security of the nation to be borne on the backs of a willing minority. In a nation of 300 million, we have asked a few hundred thousand brave souls to time and time and time again put their lives on the line so that we might sleep soundly at night. And in many cases we have asked them to take these risks for little more than political expediency.
This has to stop. We can no longer ask “the few and the proud” to risk their lives indefinitely for a political war. We can no longer ask them to provide peace and security for an entire planet. There is more to “supporting our troops” than waving the flag and bandaging their wounds. Hopefully the tragedy of Sgt. Bales’ incident will awaken the country from its stupor. For only through the voice of an informed public can change occur.