CLYDE, N.C. (AP) — Part of the Labrador retriever’s training was to sense when the demons of war had invaded Wade Baker’s dreams.
“I was having a nightmare, a flashback,” Baker, a Gulf War veteran, once told an interviewer. “And I woke up with Honor standing on my chest, licking my face.”
He tried to push his service dog away, but Honor persisted.
“He was stopping the nightmare for me,” Baker said.
And so, this summer when he saw his master lying in the flag-draped casket, Honor pushed through the clutch of weeping family members, reared up, placed his paws on the edge and tried to climb in. Unable to comfort Baker, the lanky black dog in the camouflage-patterned vest curled up underneath.
For Baker, the long nightmare was finally over. But Honor was still on duty.
I guess this is my Veterans Day post. My thoughts on this, on PTSD and the tragedy of stories like this is simply that if we can’t do a better job of helping our vets with these problems then we shouldn’t be sending them to war. Maybe it’s unavoidable in times of danger, though WWII was the last time the nation’s future was actually at risk. But for ‘Police Actions’ and ‘Peacekeeping missions’. No.
Many, probably most of the men we have sent to war come back without any lingering problem. But as the draftee citizen army of the past is gone and forgotten, the new professional American Army is being run ragged. Some of today’s active duty combat soldiers have been ‘at war’ for four times longer than their WWII counterparts. We’re looking more and more like the Legions of the old Roman Republic than we look like the WWII’s Willie and Joe.
I hope someday that the screening process will be able to filter out the men unable to handle the savagery and chaos of war. Unless our nation (wonder if I can still say that) is in mortal danger we do not have the right to place the souls of men like Mr. Baker in peril. Wade Baker committed ‘Suicide by Cop’ and was killed by police after firing a shot at the officers responding to a 911 call of a hostage situation. Baker placed that call himself. No police officers were injured in the exchange.