April 10, 2007

Your Turn: New Category Of Deserter


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On the surface, it reflects a practical matter, backs turned to protect identity.

With all the focus on Iraqi veterans these many months, however, I find this a moving portrait.  For myself, I can see a plea, the demand to take notice, even an anti-war statement.  But then, I wonder what a right winger would take from it.

Ronnie and James (no last names given) were featured in a NYT article yesterday having to do with a U.S. Army crackdown on deserters.  (Link.)

Citing military doctors and lawyers, the article identifies these men in a new category of deserter, described as: “accomplished soldiers who abscond reluctantly, as a result of severe emotional trauma from their battle experiences.”

Ronnie and James both have five years of service.  James is a 26-year-old paratrooper deployed twice to Iraq and Afghanistan.  A former air force psychiatrist who examined them diagnosed both men with PTSD and alcohol abuse.  According to the story, both tried to surrender in December and were “told not to bother.”  With legal assistance, the men returned to their base yesterday and now face courts-martial and possible incarceration.

Is the photo “straight up” or does it have an agenda?  With these men facing both demons inside and out, is the beautiful landscape some kind of taunt?

(image: Brian Harkin for The New York Times.  Texas,  published: April 9, 2007.  caption: Two soldiers in Texas, Ronnie and James, who did not want to be fully identified, are among the Army deserters who are facing courts-martial.)

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Michael Shaw
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