Highlights

 
Quotable
A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be...surer of the noose than a private homicide.
H. G. Wells
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
July 14, 2007

Peace Activist's Son Discovers Pain of War


by Aaron Glantz

The U.S. military has expelled the son of a leading peace activist for going AWOL after returning from a year tour in Iraq.

Specialist Shaun Manuel, whose father Michael McPhearson directs the organization Veterans for Peace, was given a bad-conduct discharge last month after failing to report for training for a second tour.

When Manuel signed up for the Army in December 2003, his father, Michael McPherson, tried to talk him out of it. A veteran of the first Gulf War, McPherson was a vociferous opponent of the second.

But Manuel wouldn't listen to his father's admonitions. He was assigned to the 101 Airborne Division and in September 2005 deployed for a year-long tour running convoys and warehouse operations in Tikrit.

As he dealt with the daily danger of mortar rounds and roadside bombs, Manuel said, he began to share his father's perspective.

"It was like I was over there for no reason," he said. "We weren't accomplishing anything. It was like we were doing the same thing every day and they wouldn't tell us nothing about what was going on at the Pentagon."

Manuel said he repeatedly asked his chain of command, "Why am I over here?" but they didn't provide him with an answer.

It was "like they were ready to come home too," he said. "What I was thinking – it was on their face."

While Manuel was in Iraq, his wife gave birth to their third son, Jeremiah. But the joyous occasion turned sour when Jeremiah was diagnosed with a genetic disease called Muscular Spinal Atrophy and died in January of this year.

Manuel said the situation was made even more painful when his superiors ordered him to begin training for a second tour in Iraq.

"My son passed away," he said. "You gonna' send an emotionally distressed soldier to Iraq – who knows what he's going to do? I'm ready to just blow the whole world up because I didn't see my son being born and then he just passed away on me with no warning."

Manuel never filed paperwork to medically excuse him from the deployment. Instead, he withdrew and buried himself in alcohol. He estimates he drank three fifths of liquor a day. At one point, his wife had to call the police during a domestic disturbance.

In response, the Army threw him in a local county jail and kicked him out of the military with a bad-conduct discharge, which will deny him medical benefits he might have been able to use to get his life back together again.

It's a common story.

In the first four years of the Iraq war, for example, 1,019 Marines were dismissed with less-than-honorable discharges for misconduct committed after overseas deployments.

Navy Capt. William Nash, who coordinates the Marines' combat stress program, told USA Today last week that at least 326 of the discharged Marines showed evidence of mental health problems, possibly from combat stress.

Nash told the paper he hoped that "any Marine or sailor who commits particularly uncharacteristic misconduct following deployment...be aggressively screened for stress disorders and treated."

"If a Marine who was previously a good, solid Marine – never got in trouble – commits misconduct after deployment and turns out they have PTSD {Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and because of justice they lose their benefits, that may not be justice," Nash said.

David Walker is a Vietnam veteran and police chaplain who's been helping returning soldiers work their way through military bureaucracy. He notes that most American soldiers are only being given six months in the United States between deployments – five months of which is generally spent training for the next tour.

Cases like Shaun Manuel's, he said, are increasingly common.

"It'd be like sending out your first-string football team and there's no defense, no offense, there's no kickoff team, there's no punt return team – everybody that's on that line is on the line for the duration of the game," Walker said. "When it's over with, you get an hour break and you play another team with the same string of guys."

"It's burning people out," he said.

Like many soldiers who have returned from Iraq, Manuel has never seen a military psychiatrist. He never asked to see one and now that he's been chaptered out of the Army he won't be able to see one in the future.

His father, Veterans for Peace Director Michael McPhearson, is helping Manuel file an appeal to regain his medical benefits.

In the meantime, McPhearson sees the glass as half full.

"I feel relief," he told OneWorld. "I was so concerned about him going into the military in the first place. Then he goes to Iraq, so there was a year of me saying 'Oh my God, is my son going to come back? How guilty am I going to feel if something happens to him?' Now I'm through all that. The worst thing that could happen now is that he does what many young people do, which is not to follow a good path in life."

"But he's not going to be killed in Iraq," McPhearson said. "I know that. So I've just got be a good father and help him as best I can."

(OneWorld)


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • Winter Soldier: Domingo Rosas
    11/8/2008

  • Peace Activists Welcome Obama, Will Push Him
    11/7/2008

  • Calling Gitmo What It Is
    9/23/2008

  • These Are the
    Consequences of War
    9/22/2008

  • McCain Should Know Better
    9/9/2008

  • Revelations of an Abu Ghraib Interrogator
    9/6/2008

  • Fallujah Fall Guy
    8/21/2008

  • Iraq Veterans Describe Atrocities to Lawmakers
    5/17/2008

  • Soldier Refuses Iraq Tour, Citing 'Stomach-Churning Horrors'
    5/17/2008

  • Vets' Lawsuit Opens Door on Suicides, Poor Care
    4/23/2008

  • Army 'Rewards' Outspoken Antiwar Soldier
    4/16/2008

  • Winter Soldiers Move Toward GI Resistance
    3/22/2008

  • US Vets Testify to Torture of Detainees
    3/19/2008

  • Tune in to Winter Soldier Hearings
    3/10/2008

  • Embattled Veterans Official Resigns Post
    3/1/2008

  • Vets Break Silence on War Crimes
    2/29/2008

  • States Consider Calling Back National Guards from Iraq
    2/2/2008

  • Bush Signs Vets Bill, Won't Ban Permanent Bases
    1/30/2008

  • Dear Soldiers: Your Government Lied to You
    1/26/2008

  • Parsing the Democrats' Iraq Plans
    1/18/2008

  • Wounded Vets Trade One Hell for Another
    1/16/2008

  • Iraq, Afghanistan War Costs Top Vietnam
    12/21/2007

  • US War Vets to Speak Publicly About War Crimes
    12/1/2007

  • Canada Shuts Doors to US War Resisters
    11/17/2007

  • Outrage in a Time of Apathy
    11/14/2007

  • Case Crumbles Against Officer Who Refused Iraq
    11/10/2007

  • Peace Activist's Son Discovers Pain of War
    7/14/2007

  • Troubled Soldier Gets Demoted, Not Treated
    7/7/2007

  • US Vote Could Close 'School of the Americas'
    6/24/2007

  • Homeless Vets Struggle Long After War's End
    6/13/2007

  • Latino Soldiers Who Refused Iraq Speak Out
    5/19/2007

  • Suicidal and Facing a Third Tour in Iraq
    5/16/2007

  • Iraqis' Mental Health Suffering, Say Doctors
    5/13/2007

  • Moms Spend Their Weekend Protesting War in Iraq
    5/12/2007

  • Ex-Soldier Recalls Horrors of Abu Ghraib
    5/1/2007

  • Iraq, Afghanistan War Vets Find Relief in the Footlights
    4/24/2007

  • Civilian Court Sides With 'Conscientious Objector'
    4/6/2007

  • Congressman Trades Iraq Vote for Spinach
    3/23/2007

  • US Religious Leaders Urge Bush to Talk to Iran
    3/2/2007

  • US Ill-Equipped to Deal With Wave of Troubled Vets
    2/16/2007

  • Reprieve for Officer Who Denounced 'Immoral War'
    2/9/2007

  • Officer Who Refused Iraq Tour Goes on Trial
    2/6/2007

  • Democrats Sidestep Defunding Demands
    2/2/2007

  • US Military Spied on Hundreds of Antiwar Demos
    1/26/2007

  • Antiwar Groups Plan Surge on Washington
    1/25/2007

  • A US Soldier Speaks Out
    From Baghdad
    1/23/2007

  • Sick, Literally, of Fighting in Iraq
    1/12/2007

  • More Subpoenas Come Down in Watada Case
    1/9/2007

  • Iraq Vets Come Home Physically, Mentally Butchered
    1/4/2007

  • Saddam's Death Leaves Unanswered Questions
    12/31/2006

  • Reporter Summoned to Testify Against War Resister
    12/16/2006

  • Experts Expect Democrats to Increase Military Spending
    12/15/2006

  • Natives of Guam Decry US Expansion Plan
    12/13/2006

  • Democrats Let Gates Slide
    12/9/2006

  • Spying Won't Deter Us,
    Peace Groups Say
    11/30/2006

  • Rural America Suffering High Death Toll in Iraq, Afghanistan
    11/29/2006

  • Military Plea Bargains Raise Questions of Justice
    11/19/2006

  • Antiwar Voters May Get Less Than They Bargained For
    11/11/2006

  • Active-Duty GIs Call for Withdrawal
    10/31/2006

  • Iraq Brings Wounds That Deepen With Time
    10/12/2006

  • More Dissension in the Ranks
    10/5/2006

  • Iraq Violence Leading to Academic Brain Drain
    10/5/2006

  • In Iraq, Strife Follows US Military Wherever It Goes
    9/28/2006

  • I'm a Veteran, and I Support/Despise This War
    9/27/2006

  • Doctors Under Fire in Iraq
    9/20/2006
  • Aaron Glantz is a reporter for Pacifica Radio who spent much of the last year in Iraq. His radio documentary, "Iraq: One Year of Occupation and Resistance," can be accessed online at www.fsrn.org.

     

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com