Lietta Ruger; profile in speaking out as military family, as a citizen civil activist on Iraq war

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Culture of War

by Lietta Ruger, April 6, 2005

A month has passed since I wrote my last article. It has been an exceptionally busy month for us (my husband and me) with March 2005 marking the 2nd anniversary of the war in Iraq. We have been invited guest speakers at several Cost of War events in our region; been interviewed by local media and had some press coverage both in news and online and have participated in at least two significant projects in our state related to the well-being of our troops.

In winding down from the flurry of activity, I watched the C-Span special this week; Conversations with U.S. Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. This was a poignant show with a reporter who was permitted into Walter Reed and given access to interview 4 amputee soldiers; Cpl Michael Oreskovic, Major Tammy Duckworth, First Lt. Erasmos Valles, and Sgt Manuel Mendoza Valencia. In their own words these of our troops suffering the loss of one and more extremities tell a story I believe every U.S. citizen ought to take the time to hear. For me, their stories speak to the honor, nobility and dignity of our everyday troops as I have understood it from my own years of connection to military life.

On a similar and different note, let’s look at some of the gritty realities for our troops and their families in this culture of war in which they find themselves. What are some of the everyday impacts on families with loved ones deployed into combat?


-- Potential of facing extreme mutilation with loss of multiple limbs in the daily IED explosions in Iraq. While the Kevlar vest protects the core body, nothing protects the head, arms and legs. It is reported there are a higher number of amputees in the Iraq war than in the Vietnam war.

-- Higher counts of Brain Trauma Injuries now among the troops. Resulting in what is sometimes permanent brain damage.

-- The stressors of combat, repeat deployments and the very nature of the urban combat contribute to rise in PTSD symptoms varying from mild to extreme. These symptoms will usually manifest within a few months of the soldier returning home.

-- Retardation of normal family development with the longer and repeat deployments. It is reported among military families with loved one deployed that there is dramatic increase in divorce; domestic abuse in households; drug and alcohol abuse, suicides, and wide-range of mental health issues that immediately impact the entire family. Not the least of which is normal range of depression to more severe manifestations.

-- The distinct possibility of death of the deployed loved one.


-- Pride in her (his) soldier’s service is the predominant spoken feeling, but what goes unspoken and shared among other military spouses is a quite different phenomena. Feelings of fear, anger, denial, resentment, excitement, and guilt, relief, anxiety, enthusiasm, pride, role confusion and sense of abandonment are among the normal ranges day to day.

-- The kinds of questions a spouse asks in her (his) mental gyrations daily from is my loved one alive today to how will I be both mommy and daddy to our children while he (she) is gone to counting the minutes in the day marking yet another day closer to when he (she) will come home are among the unsettling doubts of daily life.

-- Busy work. It is typical advice to a military spouse to stay busy and get involved with hobbies, volunteer work, activities with the children, finding a support network among other military spouses, church, and military family programs. The busy work serves to help the spouse endure the daily process of anxious waiting, anxious worry, anxious concern, and anxious fears. Yet while the busy work helps, it does not allay the anxiety.


-- For children of deployed parent, it can often feel not unlike a divorce in the family. It is normal for any child to experience fearful anxiety in the absence of a parent and begin to wonder if the other parent will also leave. It is also usual for children to believe they are somehow responsible for the parent’s absence as children are prone to internalize their experiences as it relates to their sense of place in the family. Young children are unable to articulate their feelings. Lacking a vocabulary to do so children will convey their distress in their behaviors

These are but some of what is the ‘norm’ for military families with loved ones deployed in this war in Iraq. While military families have learned to cope with life in the military for as many generations as there have been standing militaries; each war is different with its own unique set of characteristics. I suggest that the Iraq war poses its own unique characteristics and problems and comparing deployment to Iraq to previous deployments in other wars is a dis-service to the military families of today.

One of the features of military families in this war that differs from previous wars is that there are more young married soldiers. Here are some statistics:

in Iraq war, soldiers often married, with children

55% of military personnel are married. 56% of those married are between 22 and 29.

One million military children are under 11.

40% are 5 or younger.

63% of spouses work, including 87% of junior-enlisted spouses.

Source: Department of Defense and National Military Family Association

This article lays groundwork for future articles and in the interest of brevity, will end on this note. In a culture of life mentality; do we not have an obligation to look more closely at the culture of life of the military families enduring the war in Iraq? As it is often said; ‘they signed up so they knew what they were getting into’, I would suggest otherwise.

After a long period of peacetime, how could youngsters straight out of high school begin to know a culture of war enough to know what the long-term implications could be when they signed those contracts? How could a military spouse with children begin to anticipate the firestorms that would set their beloved families into turmoil? It is time to rephrase or reframe the questions, to ask instead ‘how could we let our young sign up for a war of such unclarity and expect them to concretely know the culture of war?’

C-Span; Conversations with U.S. Wounded at Walter Reed Hospital

USA Today; Long deployments stress military families

USA Today; Key Iraq wound: Brain trauma; Deployment Center; Family; Family,131...

There are considerable more references; these are but a few.

Leisure time, I paint among other things;
Winter Cabin, oil painting by Lietta Ruger

See more of Lietta's paintings at  Lietta's painting gallery