The Combat Veteran’s Paradox

I’ve been a guest on some of the world’s top podcasts, radio and television programs. I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at Fortune 200 company events. I’m a national spokesman for a veteran’s charity. People line up for book signings to ask about my book and to talk about life in Special Forces. Most every person I meet thanks me for my service.

But in the eyes of the state of California, I am a menace to society and undeserving of the same rights as the person next to me in line.

This is what I refer to as the “combat veteran’s paradox,” or the current state of affairs where, on one hand, most of society dons yellow ribbons and shows their undying support for the combat veterans of the past decade, those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, who’ve suffered the tolls of war and lost too many friends in the process.

And on the other hand, the state believes those same skills and bravery that were so handy in combat zones fighting for that same state’s flag become a danger to society, causing them to strive to take away our arms, benefit of the doubt, and, yes, many times even children.

While the 22-a-day statistic is staggering and gaining much-needed attention in social media and the greater landscape of society, there is another military-related statistic that has fallen off the public radar: the military divorce rate and subsequent broken families.

It seems I find stories every day in the media, through conversations with friends or in social media of another veteran having his life torn in two by an angry spouse with full support of the state.

There was once a time when I believed every story had a logical explanation, that there must be some integral key factor that these men were leaving out to paint themselves as the victim in the story.

And then I experienced it firsthand.

I cannot explain to you how maddening it is that every friend or legal authority I tell my story to – whether it be a lawyer, police officer, or court official – responds with the same answer: “they [the court system] can’t just do that.”

In a logical world they would be correct, as I would have been in my assumptions before walking the line myself. But in today’s world, the same government whose flag we soldiers run to pick up, fight for and protect has no issues with throwing us to the wind when we need their help the most, claiming the same skills they needed when it was time for war leave us incapable of being a good father, owning weapons, or receiving the benefit of the doubt.

 

As a man who grew up in the South and spent quite a bit of time in military towns, I can attest to the masses of young girls who just “love a man in uniform.”

And when the nation is in a time of peace, it works out well for both parties.

The soldier is only gone for short-term training assignments, and may come home with some anger or resentment towards his chain of command or the system from time to time, but that is much different than the unwavering wounds of war.

But in a time of war, things are much different. It takes a truly strong woman to love a veteran – more than loving the man in uniform, more than just singing along with empowering songs or watching empowering movies, but a truly strong and amazing woman with steel in her veins.

To love a veteran is to understand that sometimes he just can’t see why your world is collapsing because they didn’t have a shirt in your color. He doesn’t understand your crying because you hurt yourself and a tiny speck of blood is momentarily on your little finger. And your power struggles at work with your arch nemesis in the next cubicle? Not on his radar of things to get worked up over.

A veteran who has walked into certain death time and time again, watched multiple friends die traumatically in their early twenties and toiled in the high desert heat while wearing a full uniform with well over a hundred pounds of gear and rucksack will have a difficult time showing empathy for your first world problems.

And in the days where everyone is a special snowflake, reality tv teaches young girls that if Kim Kardashian can be a star for nothing so can they, and filing for (and getting) a divorce is not only easier than getting married but almost just as common, these strong women quickly change the “till death do us part” portion of the marital contract to “till it gets a little tough.”

And in the eyes of the state, it’s always the veteran’s fault. While the rules state that a restraining order is a serious move (and does quite a bit of damage to one’s reputation, record and any security clearance they may have held), it is quick these days to levy one against a veteran with zero evidence, history of violence, or police record.

There are many documented cases (mine as well), where an angry spouse will perjure herself in court, contradict herself repeatedly and give no clear evidence of need, but the court will rush to file a restraining order and take the children away from a loving veteran father in favor of a proven liar because she’s angry and spiteful.

Why? Because the father is a combat veteran, and as he loves his children more than anything the state allows an angry spouse to use them as weapons against him.

And there seems to be little attempt for the court to curb this disturbing trend. Much like trial lawyers can be disbarred for frivolous lawsuits but rarely are, it seems the court system has turned a blind eye to women abusing the system (and our nation’s veterans).

The onus to write this article was not my own experience (although it was a huge mitigating factor), but several others that were so egregious I felt I had to spread them as far and wide as possible to show the gravity and scope of this epidemic.

In a veteran divorce case in Key West, Florida in 2010 attorney David L. Manz of Marathon, Florida implied that all military veterans were high risks for spousal abuse and domestic violence by virtue of their military training, which aggressively teaches them to kill and destroy.

This was not only kept on record in that case but seems to be echoed time and time again since in divorce courts around the country involving veterans, where the “innocent until proven guilty” attitude required in other court cases is thrown out of the window.

Another case in Pasadena, California involved a soldier who was deployed for a year to a combat zone. While he was deployed, his wife filed for divorce and left with their children. When he returned and petitioned for custody rights, the Pasadena Judge deemed him an unfit parent due to the year he had spent away from his kids.

It didn’t matter that it was an involuntary deployment that would have landed him in jail as a deserter if he refused; again, in the eyes of the State, the combat veteran has no rights.

In another case, a spouse filed for divorce from her disabled veteran husband because caring for him was too much of a nuisance. As a parting gift, the judge awarded her half of his disability income. You read that right – she didn’t want to help with his disability anymore, but more than gladly took the money for it.

Unfortunately, I could fill pages upon pages with examples. Last night I read another message from a fellow former Green Beret on a secret group we belong to speaking of the courts giving him the same treatment, only allowing him to see his kids in supervised visits which their mother has chosen rather frequently not to even bring the kids to.

And her punishment for contempt of court? Zero.

It’s amazing with treatment like this that anyone even wonders why we’re seeing 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

A characteristic that I’ve often written and spoken about is that while we veterans may have a gruff and solid exterior, inside each of us has more love for our families than I’ve ever seen in the civilian sector – so much that we would rush to sacrifice our lives in order to protect that which we hold so dear.

It is said that “nobody loves a warrior until the enemy is at the gate.” Our nation’s veterans have been keeping that enemy at bay for well over a decade now, but when they come home to find the only people in their lives they are supposed to trust, rely and depend on have become the enemy, how can they choose to go on?

And the fact that our nation would support the soldier by wearing a ribbon but also support a court system or angry ex-spouse that would treat our veterans like this?

That, my friends, is the combat veteran’s paradox.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on iTunes.

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California exodus, welcome back to Texas

Those of you who know me and/or have read my memoir, “Love Me When I’m Gone,” know my story, how I ended up here in Los Angeles, and how unhappy this place makes me.  For those of you who don’t, here’s a quick refresher:

I was born in Florida, lived there for a few years until Air Florida went under and my dad got a job flying for Southwest Airlines.  I spent the next 20+ years of my life in the state that God blessed, Texas, and only left when it was required for my service in the Army (I left for Infantry Basic Training at Ft. Benning, GA, a month after I graduated from Texas State University).

When it was time to leave the Army I was living in Colorado with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), with nothing really holding me there except the Army and my brothers, but Cindy had an entire acting career flourishing here in Los Angeles.  I moved here with some hesitation, but with most of the opportunities for us being here, it was the smart move….so I thought.

At this point in my life I’ve lived in Texas, France, Germany, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and California, and have spent significant time in Italy, Austria, Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq.  I’d say I have a pretty well-rounded view of the world at large, and have recently found that although I consider the United States of America the greatest nation our civilization has every known, I believe that California is determined to make itself the worst, veritably unlivable for any decent, hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, and only welcoming criminals, welfare cases and politicians, catering to their every need and alienating the productive.

At first we had to live here because of my wife’s profession; you don’t have to know much about movies to know what Hollywood is.  But, the true fact of the matter is that the only real accomplishment that the inept California politicians can really put to their name is that they successfully ran Hollywood out of Hollywood.

You see, even though movie stars are the most liberal and avid supporters of President Obama and his ever-increasing taxes, when it comes time for them to put their money where their mouth is, they run immediately for the state that is giving them the highest tax breaks; because California actually practices the ultra-leftist policies which they publicly support, it cannot afford to give any of the tax breaks that other states and nations can.

Because of my wife’s profession we have a large number of very good friends who are movie and TV producers, stunt men, actors, writers, etc.  The majority of them have second homes or condos in places like Toronto, New Orleans or Puerto Rico now because they are only in Los Angeles for casting…once it’s time to film (and hire crew and pay taxes), they are off before the first check is drafted.

As a true conservative, this has infuriated me to no end; I heard a saying once that “Democrats are lawyers, Republicans are Businessmen.”  I never put much faith in that saying until I moved here, and found that California politicians make the absolute wrong business decision at every single chance, and now I whole heartedly believe it.

This has led to a domino-effect in the State, and it’s getting worse and worse.  As the movies began to leave and take hundreds of millions of dollars a year away from the state (not just the cost of the movie, but the hotels the actors and crew stay in, meals they eat, gas they pump, booze they drink, etc), the state started to feel the squeeze.  As I’ve learned, large, poorly-run organizations like California can’t stand the squeeze for very long, and have to find someone else to pass it along to.

So California decided to put the squeeze on every person who actually earned a paycheck…..which was already less than 50% of the state.  California has more unemployed/welfare recipients than workers, and so instead of changing this dynamic, they chose to just squeeze the workers and corporations which hire them.

As a knock-on effect, many corporations, smart enough to be truly forward-thinking and know what the outcome of this would be, left the state.  Smart states like Texas, rated the best state in the nation for business for several years running, have been actively courting these businesses, successfully landing most of them.

Governor Jerry Brown, an ultra-liberal, proven inept democrat who is helping to sink the California ship, was quoted last week as saying to Governor Rick Perry that “people will always go where things happened in the past” about their state woo-ing California businesses.  Is it no surprise that he doesn’t understand that there’s a difference between where things USED to happen and where they ARE happening today?

But, we stayed.  As the squeeze of taxes forced more businesses and people forming the tax base out of the state, the social services started to decline.  As the place with some of the highest taxes in the nation, we have arguably the worse police and fire departments that are constantly being de-funded and outsourced (a drunk driver ran into Adam Carolla’s house a few weeks ago and the LAPD wouldn’t even send a cruiser out….to a man who pays a huge amount of taxes every year and employs quite a few people, no service whatsoever).

The public school system has become virtually unusable, only acceptable to people who’s children don’t speak English, who are happy because it’s better than the 3rd world nation they immigrated from, and decide daily that rather than strive for excellence, the school system should be dumbed down and forced to accommodate their kids who aren’t used to education and who’s parents offer no assistance.

A bill was proposed in California last year that would have made it easier for immigrants here on student visas who graduated from California Universities to be granted easier access to visa’s and green cards if they received high-science degrees like medicine, engineering, physics, etc.  It was struck down by the ultra-leftists who said it would be too much of an advantage over others who would come here exclusively for welfare and free benefits.  Seriously, the wrong choice at every turn.

In spite of all this, in spite of crime and unemployment spiking, the home prices staying at a median prices around $500,000 even though unemployment is above 20% and median income is below $50,000, we stayed.  But the California Leftist politicians have outdone themselves, and if they pass the most recent bill proposed, this camels back is about to break.

California has proposed some the most draconian, leftist, un-American gun legislation that our nation has ever seen.  It seems as if they completely forgot that The Second Amendment grants American citizens the right to bear arms, even though it is clearly stated that right “shall not be infringed.”

I don’t have time to explain it without getting extremely angry and possibly turning into the Hulk; don’t take my word for how far off the beaten path these lunatics have gone, read it here:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/California-lawmakers-propose-tough-gun-laws-4261890.php

Sorry California, but that’s the final straw.  Governor Rick Perry, if this legislation passes, you’ve got another family of Texans coming back home to the promised land.  I am a man of quotes, and one of my favorites is that “anyone who forgets history is doomed to repeat it.”

If you look into the not-so-distant history, look into the timeline of what has happened every single time a populace has been disarmed.  Shortly after Turkey disarmed its citizens, the Armenians were massacred in an act of genocide.  The same happened in China, Cambodia, Nazi Germany, Africa, and every known instance of a populace being disarmed.  The left can call me crazy and say i’m overreacting, but all I’m doing is pointing to history.  As a fan of statistical analysis, I love the idea that on a long enough timeline, you can find the trends in anything…….

This is the final straw California, and I know my family won’t be alone.  I know that you won’t be going through South Central Los Angeles, Oakland or Fresno taking guns away from the gang bangers and criminals.  You’ll come to take them from the law-abiding citizens who you don’t think will put up a fight, while at the same time you leave the criminals armed and reduce your Police force to the point where we can’t expect any assistance, even at a lengthy response time (it took 5 days after our house was robbed to get a detective out here).

You will soon reap what you sow, and the hole you are digging is getting extremely deep.  If you pass this law, it will be the sign that there is no saving you, and with an ROI (return on investment) so low for what we pay in the highest tax rates in the nation, you’ve been pushing it for a long time.

Even Joe Biden has been caught on camera admitting that these gun laws WILL NOT prevent another Sandy Hook, WILL NOT reduce violent crimes, and WILL NOT reduce gun-associated homicides or violent crimes.  If you are trying to get the citizens who pay your tax base and keep this state running to leave, there are much easier ways to do it.

Don’t believe me, listen to good old Joe here:

http://youtu.be/TTyoppK_aDM

The ball’s in your court; since the entire political class and most of the lunatics in this state are Dems and Leftists, I’m pretty sure I know what will happen if it comes up for a vote.  Thankfully I have a great friend in Austin who has a house ready for my family and I to move in.  Your move California.

 

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