Black tag of courage or a Liberal learns about war

I was a Paramedic in the Air Force in the early 90’s.  Joining the military was one of the better decisions I have made in my almost 50 years and even at the old age of 27, the training I went through gave me a wealth of discipline I previously did not have. There’s a plethora that I completely disagree with in how our military personal are utilized, but I was lucky to be at their disposal before the right wing, corporate quest for empire began to pick up speed in earnest.  Pretending to assist the wounded and pick up dead soldiers on the battlefield is all fun and games until it really happens.

The Air Force Medical Core / Paramedic training was (at that time) conducted at Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. I love Wichita Falls, but that’s another post. We slept in tents, ate MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) out of plastic pouches plucked out of 55 gal. drums of boiling water, rescued the pilots of a long forgotten war from their rusting C-2 Greyhound and learned about triage. The pic to the left was taken during my time at the Med Red (Medical Readiness) training grounds somewhere near or on Shepard Air force Base.

The one and only time I ever argued with a superior officer was in triage class over the black tag. In the military they call the black tag “expectant” and in the civilian world the term “morgue” is used.  The protocol for the black tag soldier was a simple one… pain meds until dead. How could anyone not do all that could be done to treat all the wounded, no matter how badly they were injured, I asked? To the instructor’s credit he was very kind to me as he explained that war is not about helping the few, it’s about helping the many. Maybe I was not the first bleeding heart liberal he ever had in his class. That was probably lesson one for me on my way to seeing what all soldiers probably know, even the person of peace is sometimes called upon to fight and die for it. A person who hates war must sometimes wage war to stop it. Until humans decide to deal with our differences differently, create a world where despots have no place and stop ignoring that our precious freedoms depend on all of us finding our common ground and contributing what we can to that common good… there will always be bloodshed.

I wrote the following letter to the editor of my conservative, East Tennessee town in early October, 2004. It was my first act of publicly putting my thoughts in front of the Republican faithful. I didn’t get lynched and a couple of people even told me, in confidence of course, that they felt the same way.

The Policy is not the Soldier

A Memorial Day flashback to October 2004

The Republican party would have you believe that their policy is the Soldier. They would prefer that no one make the distinction between their personal agenda and the Soldier that dies in Iraq.  As Mr. Bush’s comments clearly stated: that would simply send the wrong message, “mixed messages” to our brave troops.  How indeed could they follow a leader of questionable intent, morals and leadership?

How indeed? The Republican Party’s story is that this is all about freedom, bringing democracy to the middle east and fighting terrorists wherever they may be.  Those of us who don’t believe that story is entirely true are considered by many as un-patriotic and un-supportive of our sons and daughters fighting and dying in Mr. Bush’s war.

Every person that I meet who cannot allow my right to that opinion has cited the same sentiment, that it disrespected the soldier. No! The Soldier and the policy are not the same thing.

As a Gulf war veteran, I respect those who have chosen to protect our country. I do not respect a commander and chief that would spill their blood for profit, power and a personal vendetta while lying about it.

This president seriously underestimated the consequences of his actions; he will not admit his error in judgement and he hoping that Americans will not be able to separate his failed policy and premature actions from the brave men and women he put in harm’s way.

The spin is relentless in keeping the idea going that one cannot disagree with poor decision-making without disrespecting the troops, and sadly, it seems to be working.  I imagine Mr. Bush and his cronies having a good laugh at just how much the American people are willing to swallow.  And after numbing us out with the unprecedented fear this administration generated in the wake of 9/11, the religious right was waiting to take us all in and show us the error of our ways and their path to salvation.  The path of writing discrimination into the constitution, the path of altering the idea of separation of church and state, the path of intolerance and judgement.

The right to disagree, the right to speak out belong to us all for the moment. Even Mr. Bush and his ilk have the right to express themselves under the same principles, but they do not have the right to legislate for their own purposes and enrichment. It is our duty as informed citizens to keep them in check for the day they overtake us the “other” terrorists will be the least of our worries.  that will be the day none of us are free any longer, not even the right-wing, Republican, Moral majority, Christian Coalition, NRA life member.

Happy Memorial Day and Peace Y’all



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