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Web Letter

Thanks to Ms Dobie for writing this article. I am profoundly moved by it. I am also very angry about some of the descriptions regarding the lack of compassion displayed by some of the unit leaders towards these Marines who have been damaged so badly by their experiences in this unrelenting war.

To be frank, I am greatly conflicted about the portrayal of elements of the Marine Corps as being so heartless towards these young men who have asked for help. I am a retired Marine officer who served mostly in the infantry, although I experienced only a little bit of combat in the First Gulf War. I still work for the Marine Corps here on Okinawa. The leadership that I see on display here in this senior Marine Corps command is a very compassionate leadership that requires all unit leaders to aggressively get their Marines and Sailors who have come back from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to attend the post-deployment, post-combat counseling. I believe that this leadership here, and from the commandant down through the leadership chain, wants to take care of all of these Marines and sailors and get their problems addressed.

Yet, as I said, I am profoundly moved and disturbed by this comprehensive article detailing the failures of some Marine Corps leadership to correctly take care of their own, even when that young man is exhibiting "unprofessional" behavior that is antithetical to the core values of the USMC. As Ms Dobie recognizes, the Marine Corps is deeply engrained with a warrior ethos. It is this "cognitive dissidence" between adherence to this first-to-fight Marine warrior culture and the responsibility and obligation that Marines take care of their own, no matter what the aggravations may be, that is probably at the root of my disturbed reaction to this very well-written article. I love the Marine Corps, yet I can recognize when the Marine Corps is not doing what it should do in regards to truly "taking care of its own." The Marine Corps demands a total commitment from all of its Marines to give their all, no matter how difficult or deadly the circumstances are. Semper fidelis should be the guiding principle applied to all Marines from their Marine Corps in return, no matter how inconvenient it may be for that Marine Corps command to take time and resources to apply to those young warriors in an effort to help heal their hurts.

All I can conclude at this point is that Marines serve and continue to serve the nation, and they will continue to redeploy again and again into this meat-grinder of a war, because that is what they are ordered to do by the current administration. Your article is an excellent one that helps to reveal the full costs of committing these young Americans to this disastrous war. I am afraid that the overwhelming majority of my countrymen and -women have become numb to this extended war, and I believe that they choose to ignore it as much as they can. I want this Iraq war to be ended now. It is not worth any of the costs that have been paid. The damage to the nation from this "pre-emptive" war of choice forced on us by Bush, Cheney and their neo-con accomplices is only becoming visible, with a debt owed that is yet to be calculated. I can only hope that this upcoming election will be the catalyst for getting our young sons and daughters out of the hell-hole of Iraq. It appears that Afghanistan is getting worse as well, but that is, of course, another subject. I do intend to send a link to your article to my Congressional representatives. That is the least I can do. And I will most likely drink a large shot of bourbon tonight while I mourn for the individual Marines that you described in your article, and pray that they may be able to find some peace.

David Leipold

Kitanakagusuku, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa, Japan

Feb 2 2008 - 4:37am

Web Letter

For the record, the United States and its military are like no other. I am in no way ashamed of my country nor am I putting down any of the thousands of men and women in the US military.

My brother, Cpl. Michael Cataldi, was interviewed for this article. It is hard for me to picture my little brother dressed in desert digital camo, carrying a rifle and killing anyone. Growing up, Michael cared about everyone and everything. He had a sense of humor and, most importantly, he knew how to smile...

To be honest, when he told my parents and me that he was enlisting in the Marines, I laughed inside. My brother was too soft to be a Marine. He used to take bugs out of the house because, he told me, they had a right to live too. Still, we all supported him. It was what he wanted.

Regrettably, I couldn't make it to his graduation from Paris Island, but man, was I proud. I even wore the dorkiest shirt he had sent back for me that said in big letters "My brother's a Marine!"

I did, however, make it to his AIT training station in Aberdeen, Maryland. This time, he was proud. We walked around the base and he saved for last taking me into his classroom where he had learned to turn wrenches. He was so proud to be a Marine!

I remember when he left the first time. I was petrified. I tried to keep my composure for my mother and sister, who were having a fairly hard time with this. I know my mom didn't sleep for days. My sister just kept crying. I even caught myself having a hard time concentrating at work, thinking about him. He kept telling me, "I am a Marine. I am good to go."

When he returned from the first eight-month tour, he was distant. While he was away, I had gotten married and had a daughter. My little girl seemed to be the only thing that brought back the remnants of my brother before Iraq. I believe it was the total and utter innocence.

Michael wouldn't sleep at night. He would take twenty-to-thirty-minute naps on the floor, balled up in some corner of the house. He had picked up smoking and refused to be in the room when anyone was cooking. We went out to eat one night. The resturant was packed in a normal Friday night style, and I could sense he was uncomfortable. Always scanning the crowds and insisting we sit as close to the door as possible.

What had happend to him??

He called me, right before he deployed the second time. He was under the influence of God knows how much alcohol. He had returned to California to Twentynine Palms. I will never forget what the first words out of his mouth were, even though it was around 3 am in Maine and I answered the phone in a sleeping haze. He said, "I need to tell you what happened over there, but I am afaid you will think I am a monster."

From the article, you can gather how the rest of his story went and what happened during his second tour.

In the words of the Marines themselves, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine." He continues to struggle with the guilt and shame that his beloved Corps told him was right. He has gone to them several times asking for help and they have done nothing but turn their backs on him. I am so scared he is going to hurt himself, or someone else. But the Marines are done with him. He did his time, and now that he isn't doing for them he doesn't exist. Instead, he is forced to find a job in the civilian world, juggling several different types of medicines and dosages just so he can sleep at night. Half of his meds aren't even covered by his military benefits. He has been forced to try to reprogram himself, with nothing but "He didn't get that messed up here" from the Corps.

The article frightens me and my family even more than what he chooses to tell us. I think it is time that the organization(s) responsible for brainwashing these young, innocent, caring kids who only want to help make a difference in the world, should step up to the plate, admit to faults and help these people. To me, that would be tax money better spent than the $100,000/year salary for one Secret Service officer or one "on the books" military psychiatrist.

Anthony J. Cataldi

Wells , ME

Feb 1 2008 - 9:27pm

Web Letter

Anger doesn't begin to describe my feelings. I am a resident physician and spend 20 percent of my time working at the VA. These men and women deserve so much better than this. That First Sergeant should be sent to court martial for dereliction of duty. Any healthcare provider who gives Ambien for PTSD should have his or her license revoked for malpractice. Also, if these soldiers are seeing a base psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist reports to the base commander, isn't that a violation of HIPPA?

David A. Stephenson

Ann Arbor, MI

Feb 1 2008 - 6:48pm