Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Army Toothbrush

This afternoon I took a break to get a soda out of the machine and noticed the new students, Veterinary Class of 2012 getting oriented. There were table after table representing various Vet Student groups: Large Animal Club, Equine Club, Ethics Club, Gay and Lesbian Support Organziation. On they went. Around the corner, sitting all by his lonesome was a man in uniform, representing the Army. I went over to talk with him. As I approached, I spied several traveling Army toothbrushes. I took a couple. My tax dollars, I thought. The building manager was standing there talking to the recruiter. I made a joke: "Are you going to sign up, Tom?" He laughed and said he'd already been in the Navy and besides he was too old. "But you're not", said the Army man, pointing a beefy finger at me. "And", he went on, "I can get you a $65,000 bonus just for signing up." I asked him if I'd have to go to Iraq. He averted his eyes and said "Maybe". I don't like the idea of the Army recruiting in my Vet School. It worries me. A little later, as a joke, I told my story in the lab to my boss. I told him the Army guy had offered me all this money and laughingly asked him what HE might offer! He said something like "I'll offer you an ad in the paper for someone to replace you for less money than that!", he said with a laugh. (at least I think he was laughing!)

Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to put down the Army Veterinary Corp.

After all, it has a long history and.....a veterinary education is really expensive these days. The average vet student graduates with a debt of over $80,000. But Army veterinarians do go to Iraq. And they do get killed. And it's a tragedy and a waste, like this ridiculous and cruel war. And the cruel ruses the Army uses to get it's cannon fodder.

I went back to the young student at the Ethics Club table and asked her how she felt, ethically, about having the recruiter here. She said she had her views and he had his. But she wouldn't say what her views were. And the silence about the war goes on. I'm planning a letter to the Dean about my feelings. Will anything happen? I doubt it. The Army will still come. People will still go. People will stay silent. People will still die. Support the troops. And with my Army toothbrush, I can make war (and prevail) in the ongoing battle against my dental enemies. They hate us for our clean, white smiles.

And yes, Army veterinarians do go to Iraq, and the tragedy continues.....and I honestly mean no disrespect to this man or the people who loved him, but the lies continue to be believed. And people continue to die. You don't need the excuse of a war to go vaccinate a country's cattle.

U.S. Army veterinarian killed in action
Lt. Col. Holland the first Veterinary Corps casualty of Iraqi Freedom

Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians gathered May 24 at Camp Liberty in Baghdad for a memorial service honoring Lt. Col. Daniel E. Holland. The U.S. Army veterinarian, along with three other soldiers and a civilian interpreter, died May 18 of injuries sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee during combat operations in Baghdad.

Lieutenant Colonel Holland, 43, was serving on a Civil Affairs humanitarian mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while assigned to the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He is the only member of the Veterinary Corps to die in a combat setting in recent years.

Brigadier General Michael Cates, chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, said, "Truly outstanding as a soldier, leader, Christian, husband, father, colleague, and friend, Daniel epitomized all Army values and was one of our finest Army Veterinary Corps officers. He believed strongly in what he did and (in what) our military veterinary personnel have been doing and are continuing to do, and dangerous assignments did not sway him from his duty.
"Daniel has set an extraordinary example in Iraq, just as he has done everywhere he has been, for all of us to follow."

The mission that ultimately took Lt. Col. Holland's life was one he considered vital to the future of Iraq, according to Lt. Col. William Woods, his commander. His mission was to evaluate Iraqi sites relative to public health, veterinary medicine, animal health, and agriculture. Lieutenant Colonel Woods said, "He died trying to help Iraqi farmers with their livestock."

Lieutenant Colonel Holland grew up in a military family and once described his commissioning in the Army as a dream come true. "Where else could a person swim with dolphins, jump out of airplanes, and help people in faraway countries take better care of their animals?" he asked. (umm, I could think of some other places.....)

Commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps Program, he received his DVM degree in 1988 from Oklahoma State University and entered active duty as a Veterinary Corps officer.

1 comment:

Simmons said...

I stumbled upon your blog post and felt the need to "sound off," so to speak. First, I will say, as an aspiring vet, that I truly respect what you do and hope to be doing the same a few years from now. I also respect your freedom to speak out freely against the "lies" of the military. I am a former active duty Marine or, as you put it, cannon fodder who fought for your right to do so. However, in fairness, I'd like to offer a counterpoint to your perceived notions about the Army (or the military in general). As "brevity is the soul of wit," I will try to keep this succinct.

Are you aware among the low level fighting contingent of the Taliban / Al Qaeda that most fight not for religious or political reasons but for economic reasons? Bottom line #1 - these terrorist organizations gave hungry men without other alternatives a job and resources to feed their family.

I'm sure you are aware that in the developing nations in the Middle East a large part of their GDP is from farming which naturally includes raising livestock. Army veterinarians assist in the care of these animals to keep current farmers in business and to provide potential farmers with some beginning capital. Bottom line #2 - economically stable men don't turn to insurgency to feed their families.

So maybe a war DOES justify vaccinating cattle if it lessens the means for terrorists to ram our own planes into our own buildings. This is just one small example of what veterinarians are doing for our country.

I'm not expecting you to change your views, but I do hope that next time you see that Army recruiter in your school that you can appreciate that he's not there to round up bodies for the chopping block, but instead appreciate that he's there in hopes of finding folks that are up for preventing another 9/11.

Thanks for listening and thanks for what you do for the critters.