I believe I was twelve or thirteen when I first heard about Agent Orange.
For those of you who don't know, Agent Orange was a defoliant used in Vietnam, to denude the jungles the Viet Cong were hiding in, so we could bomb them more efficiently. It had side effects on humans, though, including a variety of cancers, skin diseases, and birth defects.
I heard about the stuff on 60 Minutes, in an interesting article in which the government spokesman waffled wonderfully. As I followed the story through TV news and newspapers over several years, the government first denied using Agent Orange, then agreed they'd used it, but never on US servicemen, and then maybe some of our guys had got soaked, but the stuff was perfectly safe, and then maybe it wasn't perfectly safe, but only a few soldiers had shown any... oh, hell, okay, FINE, we'll recompense all the damn soldiers who got sick because we dumped poison on them, FINE, are you HAPPY now?
And the process only took the better part of a decade. A decade, in which a great many American citizens suffered horribly due to their service for their country, and their government flat out refused to own up, come clean, and deal fair... until enough people began screaming about it, and enough politicians were made uncomfortable, and enough pressure was applied.
Given as I was already a child during the Watergate mess and the Vietnam War... a time in which it became very clear that our leaders were not good people and did not have the best interests of the nation or the American people at heart... this had a hell of an effect on me. It pretty much destroyed any interest I ever had in serving in the military. Fighting the enemy is one thing; fighting your own government when you get back is just flat out more than I ever wanted to deal with.
This brings me to the story of http://www.komonews.com/news/local/95168184.html one Gary Pfeider, an American soldier back from Iraq. He's back because a sniper shot him. He survived. And now, the military is garnishing his pay for the cost of the equipment he lost as a result of GETTING SHOT BY ENEMY SOLDIERS! To wit, $3,175 American dollars, to cover the cost of his canteen, clothing, grenades, and other stuff he so carelessly lost while lying in his own blood and being evacked to safety.
Oh, yeah, that sum includes the interest on the principal, apparently beginning at the moment he hit the dirt. Given that mentality, I'm surprised the military isn't billing him for the helicopter ride to safety.
What the fuck is up with this? Did we do this in 'Nam? Korea? WWII? When did we start billing our casualties for losing their web belts in combat? I should also point out this isn't the first story of this sort I've heard. I seem to remember one in particular where they even billed a DEAD guy for losing his rifle while he was, you know, getting killed.
You know, we heard a lot about how we couldn't recruit enough soldiers during the Bush administration to cover all our warfare needs. There just weren't enough people willing to give it all up and go fight in the Middle East because Saddam Hussein or someone or other did something or other that may or may not have had anything to do with 9/11.
Future politicians: I am here to tell you that as long as fucked up situations like this continue to occur, the SMART kids are going to stay the hell away from the military as a career option...