It’s all about the money

Kevin Holten Forum News Service Do you like flying? I do. Yet I've done so much of it in my lifetime that I've gotten to the point that I could care less if I see another airport, wait at another gate, pick another bag off a carousel or sit in an...

Kevin Holten

Forum News Service

 Do you like flying? I do. Yet I’ve done so much of it in my lifetime that I’ve gotten to the point that I could care less if I see another airport, wait at another gate, pick another bag off a carousel or sit in another undersized airplane seat.

Still, there is one priceless benefit of flying and that is the opportunity to meet interesting people.

I recently flew to Denver and on the way carried on a discussion with a “seat neighbor” that made the flight seem like it lasted five minutes instead of 90.


He was young, in his 30s, muscled, healthy looking, courteous, respectful and very engaging. He had just spent a few days in the Badlands, decompressing and visiting with a friend.

Why was he decompressing? Because he had literally gone from Iraq to the Badlands with only a five-hour stop in Washington, D.C., in between.

You see, he is a U.S. Marine who works at the Pentagon and has been on multiple tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, in his role with the Pentagon, he still goes over there but on much shorter trips. During our flight, what he had to say was both interesting and disheartening.

During his tours, he was involved in special operations, and in case you don’t know what that means, that is where they do things like grow beards, and give millions of dollars to warlords and tribal leaders to convince them to join the “right side.” Plus they get shot at a lot.

In the U.S. military these days, especially overseas, with your common soldier being in his very early 20s or younger, a 30-year-old man who has served for 10 plus years is considered an old man and has seen many more things than he ever needed or wanted to see. My “seat neighbor” fit into that category.

On his wrist was a black band with the name of a friend who’d been killed and in his mind are the memories of many others, some of whom were under his command.

In fact, he too had been tested for TBI (traumatic brain injury), having been in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the middle of a blast, and was one of the lucky ones who survived. Other soldiers in similar situations have survived too. But their post-war statistics are alarming.

For example, did you know that in 2010, an average of 22 veterans committed suicide every day?


Did you also know that psychiatrists project one in three U.S. soldiers will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the rate for PTSD is two times higher for those who served two tours, which is 40 percent of all U.S. troops?

My airplane “seat neighbor” and I didn’t discuss those statistics. I looked them up.

Instead, we talked about what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and how it has little to do with saving lives and a lot more to do with money and protecting corporate assets.

We also talked about how things will not change there any time soon, if ever, because the people of Iraq are not focused on helping each other or their country but on how they can make a buck or screw someone else out of theirs.

In addition, he said that most of the generals (not all) at the Pentagon are there to secure a big contract for a defense contractor, and then a short time later, they retire from the military and work for that contractor, making big bucks.

In other words, his take on it is all about money. Of course, he’s not the first military man to form that opinion. After all, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of allied troops during World War II and president of the United States, did too.

In fact, on Jan. 17, 1961, he gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the Armed Forces.

Eisenhower said: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”


My “seat neighbor” says that day has already arrived and did so long ago. And it bothers him that his friends gave their lives to support it.

Kevin Holten is the manager of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.


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