War! What Is It Good for? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq

By Kimberley L. Phillips | Go to book overview

An
EPILOGUE
about the United States and Wars in Medias Res
Live from the Front Lines
Military Policy and Soldiers’ Rap from Iraq

Bernice Murray watched her grandson Brad Gaskins “strut inside New Hope Baptist Church” in East Orange, New Jersey, wearing his new green uniform. The army recruiter told him the military offered a career, a chance to help his family, and an opportunity to “serve his country.” Assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Brigade, Gaskins left for Kosovo in 1999. By April 2003, newly promoted Sergeant Gaskins arrived in Iraq just after the “shock and awe” bombing campaign. As the Bush administration declared “Mission Accomplished,” soldiers bulldozed the badly decomposed Iraqi bodies into mass graves and then continued the war that had not ended. Gaskins returned to New York in late 2004, and within nine months his division deployed to Iraq as waves of violence surged through the cities. Gaskins’s squad searched for and dismantled the improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Sometimes soldiers died, and many Iraqis, including children, were blown up. In early 2006 his unit returned to Fort Drum, New York, where he prepared for another deployment in the spring. By then, he could not sleep. His head reverberated with the chatter of boots and the click of the safety on his M-16. He repeatedly recalled what the children wore before they died. As his distress increased, he hit Amber Gaskins, his wife, and he threatened to kill her. Alarmed and fearful the army might send him back to Iraq, his family helped him go AWOL in 2007.1

-273-

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