"Hopefully this Buck won't stopone of the best damn MilBloggers to ever knock sand from his boots." -- The Mudville Gazette

30 September 2005


The author and his bride-to-be, February 2005

Experience is something you don't get until after you need it.

-Oliver's Law

My wife and I met one year ago today on a Friday night blind date. Blind, perhaps, but certainly not deaf, dumb or mute -- by Sunday we had already fallen in love. Exactly three months later I slipped an engagement ring on her finger; in seven more weeks she slid a wedding band onto mine.

Things move quickly for military couples. They must. Your future is unpredictable and plans are often difficult, if not impossible, to make. Procrastination is the ultimate “no-go.” The only certainties are the goals you stake out for yourselves and that you make happen according to your own timetable and priorities.

It has been said that the spouse of a soldier has the hardest job in the Army. She enters marriage hoping for stability and security and receives anxiety and unpredictability in their stead. She longs to be near her husband whose duties often necessitate he spend inordinate amounts of time on the opposite side of the planet from her. And she is left to run the household alone, taking on whatever responsibilities her other half typically handled.

Though U.S. casualty rates in Iraq have held steady in recent months, another devastating toll is being felt on the home front. The Army’s divorce rate has soared in the past three years, as longer and more frequent combat deployments have placed additional strain on those “married to the military.”

Since the martial response to 9/11, the marital attrition among active duty Army personnel has nearly doubled, even as total troop strength remained stable -- and at a time when the overall U.S. divorce rate is steadily drifting downward. Tellingly, survey responses indicate that the top fear of deployed soldiers and their family members is a loss of a significant relationship -- surpassing even death or major injury.

The following points of advice may help in successfully navigating your marriage through the minefield of deployed expectations. Many military relationships gave their lives in the collection of this sensitive information.

Point 1: Frequent Communication Now Will Save You Painful Adjudication Later

Communicating with your spouse from overseas follows the same cardinal rule as does visiting hour at the state penitentiary: always leave your significant other with a smile on her face. Don’t argue, don’t bicker, tell her everything is fine even when it isn’t; unless, that is, you want a strange truck parked in your driveway every night from sundown to sunup. Some wives of deployed soldiers are like gazelles lost in the Sahara -- there’s always a rival lion waiting to pounce.

Most assume it couldn‘t happen to them. It can, and it will if you neglect to adhere to the aforementioned cardinal rule numero uno.

Overheard recently at the camp phone center:

“Yes, Honey, I realize I got really angry with you for going out to the bars last weekend… but did you really think sleeping with the neighbor would make it better?

Email, instant messaging, webcams, long distance phone calls -- all are essential tools for keeping the lines of communication open, and leaps and bounds ahead of anything veterans of wars gone by had the benefit of. However, do not make the mistake of neglecting to write home via the old fashioned method, which brings us to:

Point 2: The Pen is Mightier than the S-word (Separation)

The romantic art of handwritten letters may indeed be a lost art, yet they are still a home run on the homestead; nothing can compete with a heartfelt missive to your wife. The act of contemplation when composing your thoughts is vital to bringing out the side of you that she fell in love with in the first place, and that the stresses of war and years of Army life may have buried or driven out of you.

The realization that your words may outlive you instill them with an air of directness and emotion that she craves but likely rarely receives. This may work so well that your eventual reunion is in some aspects a letdown. Do it anyway. You owe it to her, and she will have certainly earned it by the time you return.

Point 3: Empathize with the Obvious

In many ways the women in our lives we leave behind have it worse, all the creature comforts of home aside. They are often alone and isolated while we are surrounded night and day by coworkers whom we can and do trust with our lives. Our days are filled with activity and tend to blur together; theirs are left with a gaping hole that you used to fill, constant uncertainty their new constant companion.

Fear is rare in combat; far more prevalent is the mind-numbing boredom of the day to day grind. Meanwhile, back in the world, fear is constantly looming, threatening to dominate the day to day existence of your better half. Fear of the unknown; fear that the two of you may begin to drift apart; fear that you will return a different man.

Fear that you may not return at all.

Yet, a strong relationship has the potential to be made even stronger. A marriage that can survive a year of separation can cope with virtually anything, provided you manage the anger, frustration and mental stress that a year in a combat zone can insidiously weave into the fabric of your character. The souls of veterans are not damaged by war per se; only of those who allow the brutish nature of man to run amok within themselves for so long that they forget how to turn it off.

Conversely, an already fragile relationship will be rocked to its core and often torn asunder from the lack of daily maintenance that was previously only holding it together with duct tape and a patch kit. The air will gradually leak out of it until little remains but the shallow façade that it always was.

A long deployment will teach you as much about yourselves as it will about each other. The two of you undoubtedly paid respect to your vows on your wedding day, but now they’re here to collect -- and they don’t take credit. It’s Game Day for your character, and everything you’d like to think about yourself will be pushed to the limit.

Point 4: Leave the Martyrdom to the Enemy

Success in the Army boils down to a single core tenet: your ability to withstand suffering. Many soldiers make the mistake of assuming that nothing back home could ever compare with what they’re going through overseas. They adopt a martyr complex, and minimize the struggles of those left to keep the home fires burning. It is an unfair comparison to make and places their spouse in a no-win situation.

In your mind, nothing that troubles her could possibly compete with your trials and tribulations; ergo, they are trivial, petty and unimportant. This is a fatal mistake, one that will forever place you on uneven footing with your spouse and can sever the bonds of mutual experience that can serve to buttress your relationship from within rather than weaken it from afar. A broken bone will heal stronger than before, but only if set properly and cared for along the way. It is a force that can be harnessed for positive gain or left unbridled to wreak havoc and destroy.

Not everything in life is chosen, yet how one reacts to its challenges is.

Point 5: Compliment the One Who Complements You

Naturally, my wife is despondent when I leave her but respects the reasons why I must. She is proud of me, and I her, for being strong enough to handle the strain of our separation with such poise, dignity and aplomb. She immerses herself in her work in my absence and takes advantage of the additional freedom to pursue opportunities that she likely would not otherwise have been willing to sacrifice our time together for.

My wife is an amazing woman and I wake up every day feeling eternally blessed that she was brought into my life. We would not have met had it not been for my stint in the military, and if nothing else, that has made every second of it worthwhile.

There is an old saw in my profession that if the Army brass had wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one.

I, for one, am grateful for the policy change.


My Darling Dearest Husband,

As our journey begins into the unknown year, I have all faith and trust that it will be a benefit. Though I may often weep and at times my heart may feel leaden, I know that through the strength of our spirits and our love we will endeavor and triumph.

I know you will make great discoveries about yourself and your abilities, as will I. Both of us are determined to succeed and we will help each other reach our personal goals through encouragement and love. I know we will grow stronger as a couple and also deepen our already beautiful friendship.

As much as I hate your absence and the knowledge that you are in danger, I am almost looking forward to this challenge. I am proud -- so proud -- to be your devoted wife, and will, as I always have, continue to hold you deep in my heart and spirit.

You are my love, forever and always. You will be in each breath I take and every thought.

All my love,
Your Leading Lady

19 September 2005


Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.
-George S. Patton

Fanbushed: Best of the Hotmail Hate Mail of the Week

Unsolicited Letter to the Editor in Chief Waves a White Flag, Opens Fire:

You are a beautiful and powerful writer. [Still], I have to ask.
What makes you sure that the good night's sleep you rough men leave us to enjoy is what we want? Because it is not your beautiful wives and lovely children who order you off to war, begging you to protect us and our way of life. It is your boss.

I think you want a steady paycheck, and like anyone who wants to be paid, you will do what ever your boss tells you to do. You can justify if with stirring words of honor and self-sacrifice, and you can tweak your boss's personal agenda into a cause worth dying for, but the truth is that you want a paycheck.

Your writing is not truth, it's propaganda. Your boss must be very happy with you... he wants you in his pocket, spinning out his agenda, selling us on war. Any war. ALL wars. You, my dear, are a cog in the war machine. An articulate cog, but a cog, nonetheless.

I do believe that your writing is phenomenally good. It has a cadence and rhythm that is compelling, and it is peppered with terminology and images that give it a romantic, foreign appeal. Whether you do so through the military or some other avenue, I am sure that you have a very successful writing career ahead of you.

And honestly, I don't know that my opinions are right; I just feel that your opinions are somewhat fanatical and may not take women and children into consideration. I mean, what good is a way of life if our husbands, sons, and fathers are away much of the time or dying?

For most people, I think that having loved ones near is more important than war. Most women, I think, don't want their men away for months at a time. Would you want your wife, mother, or daughter off in the military? You might justify such an act after the fact, but your first instinct would probably be for them not to be away from you.

This is what the war machine does, I think; it forces you to suppress normal urges to be close to loved ones. Yes, I know you call that "sacrifice", but it really amounts to cognitive dissonance.

I suspect that many men join the military and volunteer for hazardous assignments as a way out of the rigors and/or boredom of marriage and family life. It is a way for them to be off on a grand adventure; [one] where every meal is provided, where all needs are met, and where, in most cases, major decisions or plans do not need to be made, because those are made by military minds up the chain of command.

So, except for the possibility of death by combat, your job is about as secure as they come, and I understand why you defend and glamorize it.

Then again, I could be wrong about everything.

Melinda V.

The Intrepid and “Somewhat Fanatical” Buck Sargent Takes Cover, Returns Fire:

Thank you for the backhanded compliments. As for the rest of it, I find your lack of faith disturbing. You come across like a hybrid of my uber-liberal college professors and Cindy "America is not worth dying for!" Sheehan.

Before you armchair-diagnose me further with “military industrial complex,“ I would like to highlight for you the petty arrogance of assuming that those of us who serve in the military do so only for self-serving reasons. Obviously we would not do it for free, yet all of us make the conscious choice to join the military fully aware of the long days and nights, hazardous duties, and meager compensation. I worked 91 hours last week alone, averaging less than minimum wage for it, and we obviously do not receive overtime in the military. Add in only a few hot meals that didn’t originate from a vacuum sealed pouch and barely enough downtime to rest more than a few hours between shifts, and you have a snapshot of our average workload.

By contrast, a civilian contractor living three tents away from us can pull down six figures in less than a year’s time, he can throw in the towel at any time, and his mission is purely a support role, not to close with and destroy the enemy. His job clearly involves risk, but ours is to deliberately seek it out. While I unquestionably admire the pluck of anyone willing to work and contribute to the rebuilding of any war torn nation, the difference between us and them is that we made a commitment to accomplish whatever tasks our country asks of us, no matter the personal inconvenience or disruption of our own lives. We came over here to honor that commitment, the politics of the matter be damned.

It’s that simple.

We choose to leave our wives, families, and loved ones as ordered rather than run away and hide, because for some of us the words "duty, honor, country" actually still mean something. My wife would prefer that I were home, but she also prefers to be married to someone with integrity and a belief system that includes things other than unbridled egotism and an over inflated sense of entitlement.

As far as my "Boss" goes, I could quit this life at any time, with shockingly few personal consequences; this isn't the North Korean Army we‘re talking about. The Defense Department tends to treat AWOL and desertion cases less seriously than the average New York public school truant officer.

Still, I would rather die over here than forever live in shame over there.

Why is it that those who think as you do demand all the rights, privileges, and freedoms that our country secures for it's citizens, yet you don't want anyone to protect them? Pacifism is only tolerable as a belief system because other people out there who aren't "conscientious objectors" are willing to lay it all on the line for you, whether they be cops, soldiers, or prison guards.

In Iraq’s case, this list tragically includes mayors, judges, legislators, humanitarian aid workers, and even potential voters. Would you like to “cognitively diss” them as well? They have more than “stolen elections” and “hanging chads” to be concerned with; they’re more worried about being shot, blown up or hung by roving death squads of Islamist insurgents from Chad; or as Michael Moore likes to call them, “the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow - and they will win.”

In the past three years alone my battle buddies and I have endured hardships, long separations, and physical suffering that would make the average person break down and cry for their mothers. If we were hardened terrorists, Amnesty International would deem us victims of brutal torture at the hands of the U.S. government. Military life is not a free ride, it is not a cakewalk, and while it certainly may have its moments, an overseas deployment is by no means a “grand adventure.”

But perhaps most of all, I resent the implication by those like yourself (as well as certain television dramas) that we are all a bunch of poor saps with no other prospects or financial options. We are not dead-enders; we are go-getters.

Personally, I knew full well what I was giving up when I signed. A comfortable existence, permanent roots, a normal life. But I felt I owed something back for the previous quarter century of opportunity and privilege that my country had afforded me.

Don‘t we all owe a little something back?

Buck Sargent
Just Another Articulate Cog in the War Machine

P.S. We are, however, in agreement on one point: You certainly could be wrong about everything.

10 September 2005


A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Four years have now passed since several hundred New York City firemen stormed in amid the chaos of the two burning, doomed towers; running toward the smoke and flame, toward the danger, toward the throng of innocents trapped. For 343 of them, the charred footprints of the Twin Towers would enshrine in eternity their last valiant act.

The first responders -- the initial heroes on a day awash in them -- arrived at 1 and 2 WTC not unaware nor unafraid, but armed with the conviction that something higher was more important than fear. As thousands fled for their lives, these husbands and fathers, brothers and sons charged into the breach with the courage their forebears displayed astride the battlefields of Gettysburg and the beaches of Normandy.

Every generation since WWII has been faced with its eventual defining moment -- a gauntlet hurled at its feet, daring to be picked up. Ours came in the form of kamikaze jetliners, hijacking not only the passengers and crew but an entire nation’s sense of invulnerability.

Those who perished in the smoldering ruins of Ground Zero did so on the front lines of a war they would never know; unwitting soldiers in the opening salvo of a conflict openly declared by a ruthless enemy abroad but long ignored by a complacent polity at home.

Many wish to resume the policy of strategic retreat. To them, nothing is worth the specter of war, not even the wholesale slaughter of their fellow citizens. Terrorists counted on America to remain passive.

They counted wrong.

The FDNY set the standard for the nation to follow in the aftermath of the attacks, an example many have already forgotten. With time, righteous anger has subsided; attitudes have changed; public support has wavered. Thankfully, the man whose opinion matters most has not.

“I can hear you…the whole world hears you…and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon.”

This 343-word tribute was composed in Mosul, Iraq on September 11, 2005. It is dedicated to all who laid down their lives on September 11, 2001 so that others may live.
Their sacrifice shall not be in vain.


01 September 2005


Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier.
-Zell Miller

If American and Iraqi forces were to kill hundreds of terrorists in a pitched battle, capturing dozens of wanted ringleaders and uncovering several bomb-making safe houses in the process -- all while sustaining amazingly light casualties -- what would the headline be in the following morning’s New York Times or Washington Post?

The truth would read: (buried on page 14A)

U.S. Military Grinds Insurgency Under It’s Heel; Hands Enemy Punishing Losses

What you‘d actually see: (front page, above the fold)

Nine U.S. Soldiers Killed in Protracted Fighting; Dozens More Wounded

To read the major newspapers and watch the major networks (along with most of the cable channels), one would be forgiven for failing to discern any accomplishments by the troops in Iraq other than the daily ritual of getting themselves killed.

In the stead of encouraging press accounts exist inane criticisms borne of supreme ignorance of military realities, gross misrepresentations of the all-volunteer force, and galling ingratitude toward those who have chosen a life of service over one of self interest.

This is a mainstream media that in the last year alone fell all over themselves trying to convince us that a slanderous traitor was instead a war hero, a statesman, and presidential material; that the moral authority of antiwar grieving mothers is "absolute" -- up to and including the twisted hatred of their own country; and one that has all but ignored the unqualified successes of Afghanistan and Iraq, relentlessly portraying these nascent victories as unmitigated disasters in the making.

Ours is a mainstream press that doesn’t bat an eye about running with “fake but accurate” stories about the mishandling of the Koran by soldiers at Guantanamo, yet can’t be bothered to report anything decent, positive, or even vaguely heroic routinely performed every day by the American military all over the world.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

The soldiers in Iraq have been given an impossible task -- not by the CinC -- but by the MsM: They must fight a “culturally sensitive” war under a politically correct microscope, all while operating under the fisheye lens of the 24-hour news cycle.

At the risk of their own lives, the troops must protect museums, mosques, and medical facilities even as the insurgents use them as cover for their attacks. They must observe the rules of warfare to the point of absurdity while the enemy openly flouts them. And lest they feel the wrath of media condemnation, they must treat captured terrorists like visiting heads of state. Meanwhile, the Islamists -- being old-fashioned, of course-- prefer the time honored method of prisoner care: cutting off their heads.

The mainstream press has thrown a fit over the Defense Department’s policy on restricting the release of photos depicting American service members who return home in flag-draped caskets. Are we truly to believe their earnest claims -- that they only wish to “honor” our war dead -- or is antiwar exploitation their true aim?

Newsroom producers crave these emotive pictures to sensationalize a death toll that their daily tickers have not sufficiently brought home to bear on the public conscience. Yet even their obsession with American and Iraqi body counts simply doesn’t hold up to the light of historical scrutiny and the average cost of freedom throughout our nation’s history.

More than 1,000 Marines were killed in the three-day battle for Tarawa in November, 1943.

2,500 American GIs were lost at Normandy the following year on D-Day alone.

37,000 soldiers was the U.S. cost of the three-year stalemate on the Korean Peninsula.

By contrast, in the 2 ½ years of the Iraq War, 1,878 service members have died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, only 3/4 of which have been the result of hostile action. Logistically speaking, these are not unsustainable numbers of casualties. But military logistics are not what the media soberly choose to focus on; they’d rather play up the public's emotional hysterics.

Nightline has twice devoted entire commercial-free segments to the names and faces of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror, silently scrolling them across the screen at light speed. ABC contends the images are to honor U.S. military sacrifice. But this shock and awe campaign waged against the public is hardly designed to engender respect and admiration for the troops; it is clearly intended to produce disgust and revulsion at the seemingly horrendous cost in young lives cut short. It is tantamount to a politely fulsome eulogy given for the benefit of a despised neighbor‘s surviving relatives.

The soldiers who gave all are not anonymous victims to be pitied on national television; and they are not dupes who slavishly gave their lives for a cause whose outcome they were indifferent to. They are heroes -- anomalous examples of the rarest of American mettle -- to be honored in the communities where they lived and remembered for the sacrifices they willingly made. They are the ones the neighborhood kids should be idolizing; not millionaire ballplayers, not arrogant Hollywood actors, and certainly not tv reality-faux celebrities.

G.K. Chesterton described courage as “almost a contradiction in terms: it means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”

If the networks truly want to honor the Iraq veterans, they can begin by reporting the good things they’ve done "over there" and the millions of lives they’ve made better, rather than obsessing over the tragic but unavoidable commonalities of war.

It is likely that more Americans can name all the Girls of Abu Ghraib Gone Wild than the war’s single posthumous Medal of Honor winner. For those who passively rely on the MsM to keep them informed, this would not be surprising.

In the end, it is patently absurd for the activist media to use death toll alone as a wobbly benchmark to stand on for judging the moral correctness of a military conflict. If so, it would then follow that there has to be an absolute number that, when crossed, reflexively invalidates a war. How many lives are expendable in a “just” war? 100? 500? 1,878?

The soldier’s answer is that no lives are expendable, yet there is no limit as to how many are worth the sacrifice if even one life is deemed so worthy. If a cause is sufficient to risk the life of a single American fighting man, then it should be worth the lives of all of them if necessary; to include the eldest son of Cindy Sheehan.

It is also why the voters -- not poll numbers, not publicity stuntwomen, and thankfully not pessimistic press accounts -- ultimately decide the governance and direction of our nation‘s foreign policy.


"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln