Dear Senator Sanders,
You are responsible for the most comprehensive improvements to veteran care that I am aware of. That should mean a lot to the American people. Obviously it means a lot to us.
You have said repeatedly, “If we are not willing to care for our veterans when they return home, we should not be sending them to war.” I could not agree more.
I have suffered some grave physical injuries, but not while I was in Iraq. That came after. Although I did suffer in Iraq, the condition I live with did not come from kicking in doors and shooting people. I am fortunate to only have fired my weapons on four, maybe five occasions, and no humans were downrange. Once was into a burn barrel, another was at a strand of wire that an Iraqi had just broken my SOG Multi-Tool on trying to cut, the next was when I shot a “ballistic” chest plate to prove the equipment we were issuing to Iraqi trainees was comparable to our own (it wasn’t–the bullet passed right through), and another was when I zeroed my M-4 at a secretive training facility at Camp Victory known as Camp Dublin. (Yes, a camp within a camp, the place was BIG.) It was the same facility where my commander, Westhusing, shot himself in the head over corruption and human rights abuses. At Camp Dublin they moved a huge armored truck back and forth to block the entrance just like in Mad Max. I’m not kidding. Prior to zeroing my M-4, which was brand new, I carried around an AK-47, which was not. This was a highly unusual practice. I can tell you that the ammunition available to us for the AKs was substandard Iraqi ammunition. And it was old. Maybe dating back to the Iran-Iraq War. I kid you not. Understandably, we made every effort not to fire the AKs. As far as being fired upon. Yes. That is unpleasant. Whether the shots are fired deliberately or accidental discharges. Gives you a kink in your stomach.
This is not to say I did not suffer physical injury in Iraq. While test firing my AK, I did get some powder in my eye. That’s how we knew the ammo was no good. But the IED going off, the flash of light, the screams, the burning. None of that. My trauma wasn’t violence per se. My trauma was the threat of violence. In other words, fear. Morbid fear. And moral injury. What some refer to as the awareness of “self-violation.”
Even though I was not out kicking in doors, shooting people, or getting blown up in my vehicle, my “self-violation” was recognized by the VA as an injury. And when my physical injuries came, they recognized those injuries as well. And when complications from my injuries arose, both physical and otherwise, they treated me for those as well. Which is to say I would not be here without the assistance and care of the VA. For which I give thanks.
But as everyone knows, the best way to deal with veterans is to not create them in the first place.
So, just as importantly as thanking you for your work to see that we are cared for, I thank you for having the courage and integrity to have voted against the invasion of Iraq. If Hillary Clinton and others had your similar courage and integrity, not to mention judgment, thousands of shattered and destroyed lives would not be shattered and destroyed. Thousands of deaths not incurred. Thousands of broken and debased spirits not incurred. Thousands of countless miseries not incurred.
SO PLEASE KEEP GIVING EM HELL, SIR.
FOR ALL OF US.
ALEX ‘TELE’ LIMKIN
CAPTAIN, INFANTRY (RET.)