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A Marine camp near Fallujah after a fire in June. (Evans Family photo.)

A Marine Mom's questions about Iraq

ASK THIS | August 05, 2008

Her son is on his second deployment in Iraq, where his military camp recently burned to the ground as a result of an electrical fire. Mary Hornig thinks journalists should be asking if anyone is going to do anything about shoddy contracting – and whether there is any limit to what will be asked of the armed forces.

By Mary V. Hornig

Q. Who has responsibility for shoddy contracting resulting in electrocutions and fires on military sites in Iraq?  Where is the accountability?  Why are our servicemen and women risking injury and dying in showers and housing units in Iraq?

Q. Will Halliburton contractors continue to be awarded electrical contracts based on past sub-par performance?

Q. Will military personnel be compensated for their losses resulting from electrical fires and if so, at what percentage of their losses?

Q. Why are Marine troops currently in Afghanistan having their deployments extended?  Will Marine troops in Iraq be extended as a result of Marines originally scheduled to deploy to Iraq now heading to Afghanistan?

Q. With the same military units being called to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan on a repeat basis (with soldiers and Marines now spending more time out of country than in), what are the plans to reduce this burden on these military personnel?

Q. With studies showing that those military personnel serving repeated combat tours are much more likely to exhibit post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, what is being done to address this growing problem?

Q. How is the military coping with and treating those military personnel in Afghanistan who return to the U.S. drug-dependent?

Q. What is the percentage of military combat personnel currently taking medication for mental health issues related to combat stress?

Q. What kind of family support is afforded to military personnel serving repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Q. What is the long-term impact on the children of military personnel repeatedly assigned to combat locations?

I am the proud mother of a Marine Corporal now on his second deployment in Iraq.

In June of 2008, my son’s military camp burned to the ground as a result of an electrical fire that spread rapidly throughout the camp.  Some of the Marines used axes to hack other Marines out of their burning huts.  Our Marines suffered minor burns, irritated eyes and severe sunburn as they used their shirts to shield their faces while trying to retrieve their possessions.  Had this fire occurred at night, many lives would have been lost. The Marines were told the rapidly-spreading fire resulted from a contracting error.

Approximately 100 Marines were left with only the clothes on their backs as a result of the fire, which also damaged weapons and vehicles.  Another 30 Marines lost at least half of their possessions – including gear, uniforms (all purchased by the individual Marine), electronics (laptops, iPods, DVD players, phones), personal items (books, pictures, bibles, sports equipment, games, packages from home, etc).

While I am willing to support my son’s service to our country and his redeployment to Iraq, I cannot support our government’s lack of concern for the safety and well-being of servicemen and women who are subject to shoddy contracting, resulting in electrocutions and fires such as the recent one at my son’s camp.  Even after new housing was erected, flames began shooting out of the electrical outlets in my son’s new hut because all the huts hadn’t been hooked up and the electricity wasn’t flowing evenly.  There is something very wrong with subjecting servicemen and women to this, and with the lack of accountability which has led to deaths, serious injuries and the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of service members’ possessions.

I am not alone in my concerns – there are many other Marine moms online (and I’m sure Army moms too!) who are not only upset by the fires, but by the recent congressional hearings where no one seems accountable and by the fact that no changes have been put in place to ensure this does not happen again.

Posted by Bill Hunt
08/14/2008, 04:01 PM

The "right to know" act puts a 50 year time delay between events and revelation of all that went into their making. For example, "ultra" probably had more to do with the defeat of Nazi Germany than any other single thing yet we didn't find out about it for 50 years after the war ended. The same is true for today. There are things we don't know about that we can't know for 50 years. If we knew all the facts would we have the same opinions? I seriously doubt it.

The best we can do is support as best we can those who put their lives in harms way. Only time will tell if their efforts are for lofty or lowly cause. They don't know yet go on so why can't we do the same.

There is no such thing as a former Marine. I'm one of them from an era when all we wanted was to come home. We stayed and stood our ground just like these who don't seem to share our desire to come home. I guess home is a lot closer now than it used to be. What took 30 days the quickest way then is done in less than 30 hours now. I still remember how far away home seemed and how long it took to get there after starting.

Electrical Risks at Iraq Bases Are Worse Than Said
New York Times, July 16, 2008

Hearing on Deficient Electrical Systems at U.S. Facilities in Iraq
House Oversight Committee, July 30, 2008

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