Life, even in an American camp in Afghanistan, is spartan and the average over indulgent American has no idea how good they have it or how bad it can be elsewhere.
Danger exists in any war zone; we have had a number of rocket attacks since I have been here but I am more fearful of the vehicular traffic on post, as to being injured, than I am of being unlucky enough to be the recipient of a rocket. We pay far too much attention to the extrinsic hazards on these bases and not enough to the intrinsic.
Morale is surprisingly good though many are now on their third or fourth deployments and this can only degrade things over time. Again no easy solution short of drawing down but that is far easier said than done.
We will likely pay the price, as a society, for the large number of those who are surviving what would have previously been fatal wounds and injuries.
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They now survive, but too often they are not the same physically and/or mentally. In particular, my limited experience with the concussive injuries suggests we will see many long-range effects from this group who to the eye look quite normal but inside their heads are not the same person.
Afghanistan is far behind Iraq as far as its ability to function independently as a self-sufficient nation. This is a perspective based on little firsthand experience but from plenty of inside information. Nonetheless, I think the average Afghan is a more driven individual than the average Iraqi.
War is a ludicrous business but seems to be part of the fabric of mankind — emphasis on "man." Perhaps someday mothers will defy the male leaders and decide they no longer will send their sons and now daughters off to settle the problems of older men who are unwilling to serve or send their own sons and daughters to serve.
It wasn't that way in World War II. If we are committed as a society, so be it. But all spectrums need to share the burden.
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Ralph D. Caldroney is a Lexington physician.