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March 19, 2005

The Body Snatchers: Kids, Did Your Recruiters Tell You About the Shallow Graves?


by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst

"Look! You fools! You're in danger! Can't you see? They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives…our children…they're here already! You're next!"

~Dr. Miles Bennell, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Before you or someone you love enlists, check out the lessons you'd better learn from the aptly-named article, "No Soldier Left Behind":

"Going to the morgue can get some of these soldiers used to the initial shock of seeing death in its various forms," [Captain Kelly] Dobert explained. "But there is nothing that can prepare them for the shock of seeing the human remains with any type of decomposition of someone who looks like them, wearing the same uniform." Dobert uses other unusual training methods to make sure soldiers perform their job with skill, reverence, dignity and respect. She's not above scraping road kill off the highway to teach soldiers about the smell of decomposing flesh." Soundings, 3/9/05

Decomposing flesh: Not exactly what Mike had in mind when, heartbroken over a girl at the age of 16, he called the recruiter who'd been hounding him and said, "I'm signing up." I'm still awed by the fact that his parents cosigned the enlistment form, but they're a busy family with several kids to worry about, so busy perhaps that they haven't kept up with the news about America's new mission to install democracy (and US control) all over the world: That means all hands on deck, and all bodies on the front line.

I'm sure Mike's family hasn't seen that article, or they'd know the military is ramping up a unit called "Mortuary Affairs," adding a second unit for the first time since the Korean War. Now why do you suppose the US military needs more gravediggers?

"Our troops will come home when Iraq is capable of defending herself," Bush told reporters. "Bush: No Timetable for Troops Coming Home," ABC News, 3/16/05

With many, many countries left to conquer, the Bush administration is going to need to keep the enlistee (or draftee) assembly line running at top speed.

As the Bush wars wag on, I predict less time spent on costly military training for combat at one end, accompanied by more demand for coffins on the other. Mike, now 17 and no longer depressed, has come to the same conclusion. He's over that girl and wants to live for a long time, even if nobody calls him a hero or gives him a purple heart or a funeral with military honors. He wants out of that Faustian bargain because he's realizing that the War of Terror is a global game of Risk that old men play with the bodies of the young. I told him he has the right to change his mind, despite the fact that some recruiters scare kids by threatening criminal prosecution if they do so.

Recruiters are filling our kids' heads with tales of glory, so we have to fill the gap by telling them the truth about these "armies of one." Caring parents and teachers have a duty to communicate with troubled and ambitious kids alike, letting them know that they don't have to join the military to get over a broken romance or do heroic things. Mike, like all high school kids, should be given full informed consent regarding what they're getting themselves into—but I'm afraid they're not. Let's take a closer look at "No Soldier Left Behind," and what the recruiters aren't telling our impressionable youth.

Kids, Did Your Recruiter Tell You:

What Will Happen If You Don't Want to Kill People?

The Bush military has a fiendishly creative solution for problematic pro-life values: Long story short, if you don't want to kill people, get ready to handle dead bodies:

"Mortuary Affairs is the only specialty in the Army if a soldier can't handle it during AIT or in the field. The soldier can reassess without any negative effect on his career, Dobert explained. 'But we aren't like Lurch from "The Addams Family,"' Shaw laughed."

"Shaw wanted to go into the military because he had a strong urge to protect the country. 'But I didn't want to kill people,' he explained. 'I wanted to be in the Army, and one of the things my aptitude test said was I am good with people. So while he was looking over job options that wouldn't have him shooting people, he noticed way at the bottom a job listing called 'Graves Registration.'"

That You Should Respect 'Enemy' Soldiers—But Only After They're Dead?

Ironically, the article reveals the moral relativism of today's no-holds-barred military culture when it describes soldiers' belated dignity, reverence and respect for soldiers on the other "side" whom the military teaches our kids to disrespect and demonize until the moment of death. This post-mortem respect for human life is bound to confuse young recruits, who know very well that respect for "the enemy" has no place in a military where soldiers on the other side are captured and tortured, or captured and killed:

"She stressed the soldiers must treat every body with "dignity, reverence and respect," no matter what uniform the body is wearing. That means if an enemy soldier has been left behind, the ninety-two mikes will also inter that body in a temporary grave rather than leaving it to the elements."

About the 'Personal Effects Pouches'?

From the sound of things, dying in Iraq isn't a permanent condition; the article glows about Mortuary Affairs' gift for turning destroyed bodies "back into the people they used to be." How's it done? By gently rifling through your most private letters, pictures of your girlfriend, etc. after you're dead:

"Sometimes it's the small things. For Army Sgt. A.G. Shaw, a Mortuary Affairs specialist, it's the pictures and letters he gently packs away into black bags called personal effects pouches. The little things that turn a destroyed body back into the man or woman he or she used to be."

About the 'Human Remains Pouches'?

The article takes pains to note that soldiers in Mortuary Affairs aren't morticians. Indeed, their task is far more gruesome than that:

"These soldiers collect the battle dead and their effects so they may be sent home to Dover Air Force Base…Generally, soldiers in battle will bring back their dead. But in some cases, that isn't possible, so Mortuary Affairs specialists are tasked to find the fallen soldiers and place them in the black bags everyone else refers to as 'body bags.' To ninety-two mikes, they are 'human remains pouches.'"

About the Shallow Graves?

Christians believe that God creates life, but War Presidents take it away. I have to wonder what Jesus would say about all those soldiers, many of them just kids, deteriorating in their respective uniforms:

"The dead are placed in an orderly fashion in rows 3 feet deep, up to 70 feet long with 10 remains in each row. American bodies are separated from coalition forces, which are also separated from the enemy.

The soldiers will tag each row with metal stakes identifying the remains in that row, and take a Global Positioning System (GPS) location so disinterment can take place whether it is a day, month or even a year from the time of interment. Identifying the dead at this point is critical because the remains will deteriorate in the pouch…"

 

"Even a brief glance at our society reveals that our greatest leaders—those remembered not for wining this or that battle or election or Emmy award but for influencing multitudes—have been those whose power came from a zeal for helping others….You may want to become a leader, or you may already be a leader. You may yearn for the power to do great things—and to be loved and appreciated for what you do. These are natural desires that can channel your energies in positive or negative directions, depending on how you handle them." Jesus on Parenting


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Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist, author of Jesus on Parenting(2004) and coauthor of The Nonviolent Christian Parent (2004). She offers parenting workshops, holds discussion groups on Nonviolent Christianity, and writes the column, "Democracy, Faith and Values: Because You Shouldn’t Have to Choose Just One." Visit her website.

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