No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation - General Douglas MacArthur
When I first met the man who would become my husband, he was a student at United States Military Academy at West Point. I didn't know much about the military. All of my impressions of Army life came second hand. I read the "Red Badge of Courage" in Junior High School, and knew the Army ranks, just as random facts. I had no idea that the military would play a defining role in my life as an adult. I remember watching "The Sands of Iwo Jima", "The Alamo" and "The Great Escape" with my father, curled up on the couch. Growing up, soldiers felt brave, strong, intelligent...and far away. Little did I know that one week after my 21st birthday, I'd be married to an Army Ranger Lieutenant and living in another country. Thus, my education in military life began.
My first impression of Army life was overwhelming. I learned that there were acronyms for everything from housing to my own status as an Army wife. I discovered that there were specific ways of doing everything, and took classes in the appropriate protocol. Despite the amount of information thrown at me, I also came to see the Army as an extended family. When the soldiers were out in the field, as they often were, we spouses clung together. We were there for one another. We nursed each other through trauma, through ordeals and through fear.We had the support of our entire community, and, during Desert Storm, we became an oasis of security when our cars were searched, when protests were marched in nearby German towns and husbands would leave without the ability to call home on satellite phones or Skype. We knew we had an effective support system in place.
When I first heard the story about the three Navy Seals being prosecuted for allegedly abusing an Iraqi prisoner and then covering up the offense, I was disgusted. Having read almost everything I can about this case, I can only come away shaking my head at the injustice being done to these three men: Petty Officer Second Class Matthew McCabe, Petty Officer 1st class Julio Huertas and Petty Officer 2nd class Jonathan Keefe. Petty Officer McCabe is charged with punching a terrorist in the midsection. The other two SEALS are charged with aiding and lying. Have the circumstances regarding this terrorist been released? Do we know what this terrorist may have said or done to military forces in the past? Have we been informed of his record? Were these highly trained men just acting like schoolyard bullies, out to beat up whomever they could find?
Hardly. We know a great deal about this terrorist. "The supposed victim, Ahmed Hashim Abed, was the mastermind behind killing, burning and mutilating four American contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. His followers hung the desiccated corpses high on a box-girder bridge over the Euphrates River. Mr. Abed was run down by the SEALs on a covert mission in September 2009." The fact that he was captured by the SEALS at all is an exceptional accomplishment. This criminal had been evading US Forces for at least five years. For five years, he'd been working to murder and slaughter civilians and military personnel. For five years, families mourned their loved ones without justice in sight. These SEALS are heroes, who captured a sociopath. Did they show anger? Absolutely. But, was it out of control and tortuous? Absolutely not.
Many people do not understand what it is that SEALS do in the Navy. SEALS "are employed in direct action and special reconnaissance operations. SEALs are also capable of undertaking unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and other missions." As an Army Ranger's wife, I know quite a bit about the intense training a Ranger undergoes before graduation. Less than half of all Ranger trainees make it to that ceremony.The Naval SEAL program is 5 times longer, and with an even lower, more competitive and tougher graduation profile. Navy SEALS are among the most disciplined, the most courageous and the most Spartan of all soldiers in any branch of the US military. They do not become SEALS lightly and they are not bestowed with the title easily. It's a hard won honor...and with that distinction comes the knowledge that upon graduation, he may well be on his way to a mission from which he will not return. For those who do come back from missions successful, there is always the understanding that there will be another "mission impossible" to carry out...during which they may lose their own lives, or watch their teammates suffer. SEALS believe in Honor above all, and one of their closest credos is to never leave a man behind. SEALS will risk danger to themselves to retrieve and rescue a fallen comrade.
So, where is the support for the Petty Officers McCabe, Huertas and Keefe? Where are the branches of government to stand up for them? The military, particularly during time of war, is meant to pull together and create a cohesive team. But, when our own government is prosecuting heroes for during their jobs, when brave men save the lives of others for capturing a known terrorist, how we can trust that they will take care of any soldier? The ramifications of this prosecution can be taken outside the military, as well. Who can say that a District Attorney won't file charges against a police officer for taking out a bank robber? Or an overzealous government to prosecute Special Forces operatives for going after Pirates in the Mediterranean? What about firefighters who aren't able to save every single person from a burning apartment building? Will they be tried for negligence? The fact remains that brave men and women put their lives at risk every single day to keep us, the civilian population, safe. If these heroes are second guessing their actions every moment, in fear of prosecution, will any of us be truly secure?
It's all very well and good to bake cookies to send to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for Christmas. It is thoughtful to create care packages to mail overseas. It's positive to hold potluck suppers to benefit those wounded in action and through their rehabilitation. It's important to support those spouses left behind when a soldier or sailor deploys. But, unless we can create an atmosphere in which soldiers are allowed to do their jobs, and can risk their lives without worrying about prosecution for every action, we are not supporting our troops. The current political climate of 'trying to be understanding to terrorists' is an abomination. Our soldiers can't risk their lives while politicians see opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the war's progress. War is ugly. War isn't cheap, in money or lives. War isn't the desired state of world affairs. But, like it or not, we are in the midst of a two front war, and if those who wish us harm see that our brave troops can be sent to prison for doing their jobs, it will only increase the terrorist violence....knowing that retaliation will bring impunity to those who commit the crimes, and jail for the soldiers fighting.
As far as the punch in the stomach goes, it was a regrettable action. But, ask yourself this question: what would have happened if Petty Officer McCabe had been captured by Ahmed Hashim Abed? Would Ahmed Hashim Abed get in trouble for one belt to the midsection by his superiors? He would have been applauded by them for publicly executing Petty Officer McCabe, and allowing McCabe's relatives to watch the public horror on television.
I respectfully suggest that the prosecutors attend an NHL game at some point. They clearly need a lesson in what one punch means.
In the meantime, I also suggest joining our team on Facebook, to help support these three brave SEALS: