A Soldier Predicts His Death And That Of His Men

A Soldier Predicts His Death And That Of His Men
One Woman’s Opinion
  By Sheri de Grom

Twenty-six year old Army Staff Sergeant Matt Sitton predicted his own death. He’d advised his entire chain of command that he and his men were performing daily foot patrols where they knew there were improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Every day they went into this particular field, and every day a man lost a leg or an arm or their life.

SSG Sitton’s command told him to quit whining.

I’m having a difficult time understanding why commanders send soldiers into an area where they are going to be either seriously injured or killed and there’s nothing for the United States to gain.

Furthermore, what happened to the $3 billion budget paid to the agency that’s in charge of protecting our troops against IEDs. We’re sustaining the same number of horrific injuries and deaths despite the expenditure. Where’s the accounting of the money?

Why wait to withdraw our troops until 2014? We aren’t wanted in Afghanistan. Proof positive is presented by the growing number of our troops killed by Afghan forces trained by U.S. soldiers.

SSG Matt Sitton wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Rep. Young attends the same church as SSG Sitton and his young family. He wrote the letter after his command refused to take action on patrolling the field with the IEDs. The very field where the staff sergeant was killed by an IED.

Rep. Young is an influential Republican and partly because of the letter he received from SSG Matt Sitton, he’s now in a position opposite that held by most of his party.

Rep. Young reported he shared Sitton’s letter with the Army’s top leadership, as well as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

No one took action and no one owns up to the responsibility of the men patrolling a field set with IEDs wherein the U.S. had nothing to gain. It seems to me no one knows what our mission is anymore or did we ever have one?

I must agree with SSG Sitton’s wife, Sarah. She commented, “There isn’t much they are fighting for now. They are just keeping people safe who don’t want to keep themselves safe.”

In my opinion, our troops must come home. We are not making our country safer by fighting someone else’s war on borrowed money.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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24 Responses to A Soldier Predicts His Death And That Of His Men

  1. Pizzo says:

    I will miss you and pray…

  2. Lynn Garrett says:

    Hard to believe such an honorable man could be ignored. Lynn

    • Lynn – It continues to anger me that not only are our soldiers in the field ignored but when they ask for help (and they aren’t shying away from doing their job) so they go to their command and the command does nothing to help – no one listens or does anything. Then when the problem gets all the way to Leon Panetta and he still does nothing – shame on him and every politician in D.C. I consider Panetta a politician along with all the rest because he’s a Presidential appointee.

  3. FSM_47 says:

    In response to your tweet message: I left VN in 1968 after TET and we still felt we were winning (We just didn’t know what or why we were winning). The worst and most useless war is the wind-down or holding war(I’m betting this causes more PTSD than any other). Troops feel they are abandoned and forgotten. Politics takes over tactics and troops in the field are just tools to use and abuse. Everyone I have ever talked to that was in VN in 1970/1971 has felt this way.

    Since Obama has failed to articulate any goal in Afghanistan (like the LBJ war in VN), regular military should be immediately pulled back to bases or pulled out of country. If field ops are needed, leave it to the Spec Ops types that love that stuff and use the other for ready-reaction. Soldiers were fighting and dying in France on 11/11/1918 for no reason. This is not any different.

  4. Sheri, as an Afghanistan vet I appreciate your concern but I don’t think the situation was as simple as presented here. Sometimes troops need to patrol dangerous areas in order to keep the enemy from having total control of key terrain. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Regarding your comment about $3 billion spent on defeating the IED threat, I’m sure that some of it has been wasted, but throwing money at that problem will not make it go away. Every time we figure out how to defeat one IED tactic, the Taliban figure out a new one. No amount of money in the world will defeat human ingenuity and drive. The best we can do is reduce the number and severity of attacks, but they will never be eliminated.

    While I certainly sympathize with SSG Sitton’s family and understand Representative Young’s change of heart, I also have to view this story through the prism of my own experience. I know of soldiers who called home one night to complain that they were going on a “suicide mission” the next day. I was with them on that mission, and nothing happened. If we had been engaged, and had taken casualties, it’s likely family members would have gone to the media and said “That mission was so dangerous my son said it was a suicide mission and knew he was going to be killed.” But the reality was that the mission was no more dangerous than most, and way less than some.

    To clarify, I’m not saying SSG Sitton was wrong or was crying wolf. Obviously, he was correct about the danger and deserves our utmost respect for going on patrol even though he knew the danger. I am saying, however, that I believe the overall situation and problem may have been far more complex than the caricature of “stupid leaders sending men to die for nothing” suggests.

    Thank you for recognizing SSG Sitton’s sacrifice.

    Chris Hernandez

    • Chris – Thanks so much for your comment. I was hoping I’d hear from someone (active duty or veteran) with true life experience in what’s happening with the patrols where we are loseing so many of our soldiers and are they (the patrols) really doing any good. I’m gravely concerned about the number of deaths and serious injuries occurring in this decade long war.

      • Sheri,

        you’re right to be concerned, and many of us who were there have our own concerns about whether or not the casualties are worth the limited progress we’ve made. My comment was not to question your point about our losses; I saw us lose way too many good people during my deployment, and those were just a fraction of our overall losses. I just want to point out that from a tactical perspective, sometimes you have to patrol dangerous areas, and you cannot eliminate certain threats. As far as the patrols doing any good, that really depends on many factors. The war I fought in Kapisa province in 2009 was not the same as today’s war in Helmand, which isn’t the same as the war in Konar province in 2007. Even within one province there can be vast differences from one district to another, or even from one valley to the next. It’s a complicated war with no clear cut solutions.

        Thank you for your reply and I will follow your blog from now on. Please let me know if I can ever answer any questions for you.


        • Chris – I normally post military related topics on Monday. However, not all Monday posts are related to the military. My Thu. blogs are reserved for book reviews. I appreciate your offer to answer questions — I worked for DoD for 20 years as a civilian. I popped over to your blog and you blew me away with your descriptive writing – what I read today I clearly can compare to Sebastian Junger. Write on.

  5. Such a tragedy to see and hear about such senseless loss…for what?! I cannot begin to imagine the heart ache….my condolences and deepest prayers go out to the families. So sad…here’s hoping for change soon!

    • Yes indeed – a senseless loss. My small contribution in seeking change is hopefully making the public aware that we need to get out of Afghanistan and immediately. Just today I confirmed the report that the United States is losing more soldiers to suicide than to the enemy. Include veterans, and the tragedy is even more sweeping. For every soldier killed in war this year, about 25 veterans now take their own lives. This tells me our soldiers have lost faith in this battle that’s been going on since biblical times. Our soldiers that do come home are severly wounded both physically and mentally. They’ve lost all hope.

  6. they can make bigger, better, more destructive weapons, unfortunately it seems they can’t make better sense.

    • Shelly, unfortunately the money is allocated for the weapons to be made by contractors and then sent to the field for the soldiers to use. Worse – the equipment often doesn’t work properly but the Department of Defense often doesn’t do anything about it. I’m angered the individuals sitting in their comfy chairs at the Pentagon and the commanders in the field don’t ‘understand’ basic combat skills well enough to make a proper call to save our soldiers lives. For me – it’s no wonder we have so many soldiers committing suicide when they see no other way out. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. It’s such a sad state of affairs right now. I agree with everything you’ve written and have wondered this on many, many occasions. Living so close to a major military base, the losses are keenly felt here. I hate seeing the ships pulling out of the harbor, or the drills they do in the mountains on base. I know some of those brave men and women won’t be coming home and it wrenches my heart.

    • When I think about how many individuals had the ‘power’ to stop this senseless killing – and none did – it causes me to wonder where their values are. What decision would they make if it were their son or daughter walking a foot patrol and the US had nothing to gain by doing so. And, to think, we are borrowing miney to fight this war where we aren’t wanted. SSG Sitton was a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, member of a church, and the list is endless. Yes, he was a soldier. He was a good soldier–he wasn’t just asking for himself, he was asking to be moved from the particular field they were patrolling on behalf of his men.

  8. Perhaps the casualty numbers of the next higher up in the SSG’s company should be examined. If the body/injury count is out of proportion, someone needs to be hauled onto the carpet.

  9. I am not surprised by what you have written, Sheri, only deeply saddened by the easily avoidable loss of a young man. Keep writing Sheri. Perhaps someday, we can learn from this history.

    • Mary – It continues to sadden me that SSG Matt Sitton took his problem through his entire chain of command and no one did anything. They sent him back to continue patrolling the same field where his men were being killed and injured everyday. Then the issue was brought as high as Leon Panetta, our Secretary of Defense, and he refused to look into the situation. In the meantime, we are still facing numerous casualities and wounded soldiers that can never be made whole. No one in command will take responsibility for this tragedy. How many more are taking place — this cannot be an isolated situation.

  10. Sheri, we sadly share the same “bad” opinion of our defense department. The difference is that you have had the courage and stamina to work within the system. I am never surprised or shocked over the inequities and injustices regarding our military. Actually, I am of a belief if the government didn’t have a war to fight, they would manufacture one to keep the machinery rolling out the “dough.” Too bad the same resources are not used for our men AFTER the wars end. Worse that we never spend that much for peace !!

  11. Needless to say, this is appalling news. I cannot fathom such ignorance. What are they thinking?

    • Hi, Patti – This is the senseless cost of war. Because I’ve spent so many years both as a military wife and as a career government employee, I’m enraged when I come across a report such as this. How many other young men and women have given their lives because those that out-rank them won’t admit they made a mistake. We continue to lose young men and women every day to war, to suicide, and to injuries others will never recover from–I continue to ask myself why–and know there’s no answer other than greed. Thank you for reading with me.

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