Casualties of War
On Sunday, January 9, 2005, nineteen-year-old Andres Raya shot two police officers, killing Sergeant Howard Stevenson of the Ceres Police Department, and was himself killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Raya had served seven months in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines of the 1st Marine Division. Though he served in the infamous Sunni Triangle, it was not immediately known whether he had participated in the assault on Fallujah.
Andres Raya and Howard Stevenson will not be entered on the official casualty list for the war in Iraq but they are both casualties of war as certainly as the Iraqi civilians who were not targeted by American bombs but died under them just the same.
Characterized as a possible suicide by cop, the story of Andres Raya made national news because it was captured on the surveillance tape of a local liquor store. It is symbolic of the untold story of war. In the coming years, thousands of similar stories will unfold in towns and cities across America. They will not make the national news wires. They will not be featured on television newscasts. They will not usually be so dramatic: Stories of domestic abuse, alcohol or drug related rage, homelessness and crime statistics. They will only be reported in the local interest stories, buried in the back pages where few will notice like the fallen soldiers themselves.
The untold stories of war fall under the category of collateral damage. Hundreds of thousands of trained killers survive combat only to come home to a life for which they are no longer prepared. They have seen what men and women should never see. They have engaged in operations that brought them face to face with the death of innocent civilians, women and children. They have lived in an environment where no one could be trusted, where the father of a smiling, waving child could be the enemy, where local hatred for the occupying army is ubiquitous, and where they learned to hate and shoot indiscriminately, before an unknown enemy struck first.
The untold story of the first Gulf War was sickness and infirmity, a debilitating syndrome neglected and denied by both the government and the military. The untold story of Vietnam was a lost generation of soldiers not unlike Andres Raya, whose family and friends merely said he did not want to go back to Iraq.
To those who continue to ignore the deceptions and lies of our government because of their overriding need to support our troops, take a good hard look at Andres Raya. He was a Marine, as strong and tough as they come. He wanted to make a life for himself. He wanted his parents to be proud. He was not so different from every other mother and father’s son, until he came home from the war.
At a time when the military is hitting our high schools, malls and soda shops, looking for fresh recruits, talking tough about patriotism, honor and duty, who will tell the story of Andres Raya? Who will give testimony to the dark side of war? Who will talk about the Gulf War Syndrome, the soldiers who threw their medals away, or the veterans who could no longer endure? Who will tell them why daddy turned to drugs or ended his own life? Who will tell them about Hearts and Minds or Johnny Get Your Gun?
It is time to get the military out of our high schools or, if they will not, it is time to call on the veterans of war for the other side of truth. If we send our kids to war without giving them the full and unvarnished picture of what they will face, we are almost as guilty as the warlords who never served, who never risked their own lives or the lives of their loved ones, but who are perfectly willing to raise the flag for the Fourth of July parade.
JACK RANDOM is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles, the War Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press). He can be reached through his website: www.jackrandom.com.