Lower the weapons, raise the goats. A Veterans Day Blog.

I woke up to something I could sink my teeth into. A veteran raising money to bring goats to poor communities in Afghanistan. I wonder. With the amount of money we spend on defense, wouldn’t it be better spent on greater good?  I know the world is not all rainbows and unicorns…but goats sound fairly realistic!

I read a link on a friend’s facebook page. I kept clicking. I was intrigued. A positive veteran’s day message. I eventually ran into this article that was published in USA Today, just yesterday. Rick Burns started a non-profit simply to raise enough money to purchase 40 goats for a small village in Afghanistan. How cool is that?

Last year, I had a similar idea about raising money to purchase cows for Masai tribes, in exchange for opting NOT to mutilate the girls of the village by female castration. That one’s a bit more tricky than Rick’s idea. Regardless, I was impressed with his mission, so I put on my Dick Tracy thinking cap, and found his phone number. I had a few questions to ask before I dove into the blog, and my wallet. Because I wanted to throw 20 bucks in the pot. It would make me feel good to do so.

Lt. Colonel Rick Burns got back to me, and we had a lengthy, informative conversation. He has served in the US Military Reserves for 28 years.

Of course, first I commended him on his wonderful idea.  Then I asked him how much of this $10,000 he is raising, will go to the goats. I wanted to know.

He modestly explained that this idea is not original. There is another organization, Heffer International, that goes around the world donating all sorts of animals to villages. He had approached them, with his personal mission to help out the people of Afghanistan, as he served there, and is moved by their people. (except for the bad guys.) And thought it could provide milk and yogurt to people who have so little. Such an awesome, simple idea!afghan 5

Heffer International found the risk too high to venture there. So Rick Burns started his own non-profit, where all proceeds go to purchasing the goats, vaccinations and feed. The hope is to have these goats multiply, and each offspring will be GIVEN to another village…and so on. I think the idea is truly beautiful.

I am against war, period. I have to think there is a better way. This is a better way.

But let’s get back to my parenthesis, ” (except for the bad guys).”

I was 100% transparent with Lt. Colonel Rick Burns about being a…bleeding heart liberal…democrat. And proceeded to respectfully ask a few more questions. And I am paraphrasing his answers, but they are accurate in content.

The first one was, “Don’t you think with the amount of money we spend on defense, wouldn’t it be better to spend it all on improvements like your goats, as opposed to spending it on weapons?”

His answer was, we need both. Because there are the bad guys, we need to take action. But he wished more of the money went towards improvements. He also expressed his displeasure in drones. He feels they are not the most efficient way to get the enemy.  (Too many innocent casualties.)

Then he elaborated on how poorly managed much of the moneys are. He gave me an example.

You have to spend the money allocated from congress.   You have to! 10 million dollars to burn.  You must spend it in a few weeks.  And I think you need more time to spend that kind of money wisely. But for some reason, it is in our orders to “get rid of the money quickly. The problem is we don’t spend money well.”

He even witnessed a 2 star general verbally reprimanding an officer for not having spent the funds quickly enough.

Suffice to say, he does not agree with this system.

I asked, “So what is that money spent on?”

He mentioned CERP. Commanders Emergency Relief Program. Where a lot of the money goes to local contractors. Renovating schools – electricity in villages. Generators in villages.

Burns thinks the money could be allocated more constructively.

afganI think what he is doing in his own little way, is very constructive. He says doing it independently, without the governments, is more productive.

Next question…
“Pardon the blunt question, but, have you ever killed anyone in combat? I would imagine doing something wonderful like this could perhaps relieve the struggle associated with the killing and destruction.”
He answered that he has never killed, or even shot at anyone in his 28 years.  He has been armed, and if need be, would not hesitate to use his weapon. But he has not. He imagined that there is struggle with some soldiers, and agreed that a gesture of this nature might relieve the guilt. And he added, that the government should be taking care of those who are struggling, when they come back home.
Next question –
I saw a movie this week, “The Valley of Elan”. There were some pretty gruesome scenes, with very hard to watch scenarios.  Things that did not make me feel very good. I was a bit ill after the film. US Soldiers torturing prisoners, orders to run over anyone in the way on route, as it could potentially be an ambush. Like, they ran over a kid. Is this hollywood sensationalism, or does that really happen?”
Burns explained that there are obvious embarrassments, like Abu Ghraib, and orders are to keep driving, even if there is a person in the way…depending on the situation. “When you drive a route where there are usually children running around, and then one day, it’s deserted, that is when there is potential danger. That is when one might not stop.
He continued to say these instances, and the horror of Abu Ghraib, are a very small percentage of our soldiers.
I would say, our bad guys.
He said our soldiers are put in very difficult, dangerous positions, and he has witnessed many acts of risk and kindness. Where something might potentially be a threat, where a soldier could just as easily take out a target, but chooses compassion, risking their own lives. And generally – they live. But there have been instances where children have been run over…
I just fucking hate war. I am disgusted that our species has not yet evolved to find a better solution.
And those trying to do good, like Abdul-Fattah Haidari, for example, pay the ultimate price. This guy was helping Lt. Colonel with the logistics of getting goats to the people.
I found this post on Burn’s site:

Afghanistan lost one of her best native sons in the last few days. Abdul-Fattah Haidari was found killed in his office. He gave his life in true service to his country and his fellow Afghans. Please remember his family in your prayers. Rest in Peace, Haidari, our friend and brother.

I asked how he was killed.  Was it one of our guys?

Burns guessed that it was one of their bad guys for sure.

I asked, “What percentage of the people over there are the bad guys?”

Maybe 10%, he said.

I asked him to elaborate,

“Are these the wackadoodles that kill people?!”

No, that’s like 2 or 3%. The others are criminals, ideologists and opportunists.

I personally don’t think that constitutes us being there.

It’s so discouraging. I think about Malala Yousafzai. The true heroes.

Burns jumped in and said, these are the real heroes, like Haidari. I love the people of Afghanistan. And I love the Military.

I can’t agree with Lt. Colonel Burns on 2 things. Loving the Military – and saying that Burns himself is not a hero.  I think he is.

Afgan 1I’m spending 20 bucks today on some goats! It’s a round of drinks folks. How about joining me for some goat milk? How about all of you people that read my blog, for Veterans Day, instead of just posting stuff about our veterans, with American Flags, etc…although heart felt, let’s make a difference today. Burns has raised 8,000. Lets bring him closer to his goal?? Please??  Here is the link! http://www.gofundme.com/KaradahProject Let’s do what America does best…making a difference.

I actually said, “Hey! What if, for anyone who contributes 500 bucks, the villagers can knit them an Afghan sweater from the goats?!”

Burns laughed, and shared a story of needing some blankets when the weather turned bitter cold, to distribute, which they overpaid for….hurry up and spend! Yes, sir. And he added that if this was done logically, in advance, they could have bought a lot more for a lot less. (And he also told me that goats don’t have enough fur to make the sweaters.  Oops.)

Before I hung up, I asked him if he could share some photos. And I thanked him for his service…protecting the good guys – and fighting the ba-a-a-a-a-d.    (Yeah, I stooped to a silly pun, but at least I resisted the obvious goat joke.)   The photos are from the village of Khairabad.

Afghan 2


2 Responses to “Lower the weapons, raise the goats. A Veterans Day Blog.”

  1. November 11, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Linda…Enjoyed the post. I appreciate the kind words. My love of the military has more to do with the men and women I have served with than a love of what the military is called upon to do by our civilian leaders. I believe Douglas MacArthur expressed it best when he said, “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

    I’ll leave you with a Gandhi quote that gets me up and going. “Whatever you do will not be enough, but it matters enormously that you do it.” Thanks for the support! rick

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