Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering - A My Town Monday Post

Many a time on this blog I've pointed out terms that I consider misnomers or poorly chosen. On this, Memorial Weekend here in the United States I wish to share yet another one.

Friendly Fire.

This is the term used to describe military incidents when service men or women of the same uniform accidentally, or intentionally, shoot one of their own.

Way I see it there is nothing friendly about a chunk of lead hurling toward you at high speed, regardless of who happened to pull the trigger. The resulting damage is just as lethal, and for those who have suffered as the result of friendly fire, the tragedy just as pronounced. Maybe more so, since you expect a declared enemy to induce harm whereas you have placed trust in the hands of those who have volunteered to serve alongside you defending your countries principles and ideology.

Amarillo recently lost one of it's one to so-called friendly fire.

Army Major Mathew P Houseal was a doctor. A psychiatrist who worked for the Texas Panhandle Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center until 2007 when he decided to reenlist in the military. According to reports I've read, he was troubled by the high suicide rates among our military and wanted to do his part to help. Mr. Houseal was assigned to a stress relief center at Camp Liberty in Iraq.

On Monday May 11th, Houseal was shot and killed by one of the men he'd volunteered to help. Mathew Houseal was 54. Four other servicemen were also shot and killed. You can read the news story here.

Mathew Houseal leaves behind a wife and seven children. He was due to return to Amarillo in June where he planned to resume his work at Texas Panhandle Mental Health and Mental Retardation. I ask that you remember him along with all of the other men and women who have made sacrifice upon sacrifice for the sake of their country.

I never met Mr. Houseal personally but for a time his children attended the same school as my boys. My heart goes out to all of his family but especially to his children who have been robbed of their father. A college trust has been established on their behalf.

Benefit fund for Dr. Houseal's minor children, in care of Amarillo National Bank, 410 S. Taylor St., Amarillo, TX 79101.

Check back to discover links to other MY TOWN MONDAY posts from all over the world.

Patti Abbott - Detroit, Michigan
Jenn Jilks - Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
Chris - Hong Kong, China
Debra -Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Terrie Farley Moran - Arlington, Virginia
Barrie Summy - San Diego, California
Mary - Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Clair Dickson - Livingston County, Michigan


David Cranmer said...

A real hero. I appreciate the important work Major Houseal was doing.

writtenwyrdd said...

That's tragic, what happened. And to call this particular incident friendly fire is insulting. It was not friendly fire, it was murder. There is a vast difference here, even between the military's euphamism in normal use (which I, like you, find obnoxious)and the deaths caused by the soldier at the clinic.

Another military euphemism which was used to occasionally cover up black ops deaths is "training accident."

I'm not fond of euphemisms in general, in particular when they are the result of overly-pc language. But in this case it's downright insulting!

Barrie said...

What a sad and tragic story. I'm so glad you highlighted it for a MTM post. (I'll get MTM post up later today.)

Travis Erwin said...

writtenwyrd - Well said!

Jenn Jilks said...

Good point, Travis. A wonderful tribute. I created a post on our Coast Guard. A fine tribute, as well, to those who serve.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Thank you for this very touching and tragic post. You and Writtenword have said exactly what we all think.

May God grant repose to the souls of the departed and strength to their families.

My MTM about Arlington National Cemetery will go up at about 10 AM EST on Monday.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Today and tomorrow always bring to mind my brother-in-law who earned a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam. He could push on his leg and emit shrapnel. He died at 29 of substance abuse.

Jessica said...

That's so sad. :-(

Reb said...

He was doing important work and where were the safeguards to prevent this from happening. If they are stressed and need to see a shrink, they shouldn't be armed when they see him. It is tragic and disheartening when something like this is hidden behind euphemisms.

Sepiru Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Travis,

Excellent commentary and memorial to Major Dr. Houseal.

A quick correction, though.

It is only called friendly fire when there is a belief by the shooter that the target fired upon is the enemy or an enemy installation occupied by the enemy and, afterwards, it is discovered that the target comprised, instead, troops flying the same colours as the shooter, or allied troops.

If the media in the Texas Panhandle are calling Major Houseal's deliberate murder in a US military site, by a US soldier, who knew that the people he shot were US soldiers, friendly fire, then the media are doing more than butchering an already tortured phrase.

The media are then misusing the phrase "friendly fire", presumably to exploit his death to attract eyeballs and ears, as they create the horrific juxtaposition of ideas and the mental disconnect that you so clearly describe.

That said, even when accurately applied, this American military-birthed neologism "friendly fire" is still never seen as friendly to the recipients, as you well point out.

Oh, and my MTM is up.

This week, my MTM is a return to the heart of darkness in Hong Kong.Tschuess,

debra said...

My post is up, Travis. I'll be back tomorrow to read.

Barbara Martin said...

Very tragic story, Travis.

My post is up.

the walking man said...

Attention to colors:Major Houseal coming home.

momcat said...

Two of my children are 21 and 19 respectively and I would hate for them to be sent into a combat zone. At their age still I feel that they are only now easing into adulthood. My son at 19 is exhibiting issues that my daughter had at 17. I believe that a lot of young men being sent into dangerous war zones are far too young emotionally to handle what is thrown at them. What they see and go through even in training must affect how they handle the rest of their lives.

Melanie Avila said...

That's just so horrible. I followed the story when it first happened. My thoughts are with his family.

Travis Erwin said...

Chris - The media has indeed described this shooting as friendly fire. Both locally and nationally.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Travis,

Wow. The national media, too.

What a flagrant misuse of an already perverse expression.

I'm shocked.

I'd be going up the wall if I still lived in North America.

This is what happens when the media is eviscerated, I suppose, and next to nothing is left.

Yet, I still find myself gobsmacked.

Thanks for clarifying that.


mrsb said...

Sgt. Bueno-Galdos was killed that day, as well. He was a 25 year old man from a town just up the road from me, Paterson, N.J. I've read many articles about how this has devastated his family.

I think the real villain in this story is the broken system of the military. The young man who did the shooting was on his third tour of Iraq and was obviously very disturbed. He should have gotten real help before this happened.

I was an Army brat growing up and a military wife, so I am so very proud of the soldiers and their families who serve our nation. They should have more support from the military system (not to mention be paid way more for what they do).

This story is just a tragedy from every angle.

Barrie said...

My post is up. :)

Bea said...

You wrote a wonderful tribute to Dr. Houseal. Yes, he was a hero. Major Dr. Houseal saw a need and wanted to help. I pray for his family daily. I had two of his children in my Montessori class. Very intelligent and good kids.

Mary said...

Great post Travis.

Mine is just now up-- actually- it is a video of our parade this a.m.

Charles Gramlich said...

Friendly fire is surely a term that should only appear in horror fiction. it is indeed horrible.

Linda McLaughlin said...

You're right; there's nothing friendly about "friendly fire". What happened to Major Houseal and the other was a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to all the affected families. A lovely tribute to a caring man.

caroline said...

You've got a great angle and perspective, humerous but poinant cutting to the bone of the issue.

I am enjoying your blog.

Sam said...

I read about this tragedy in the news - so sad.

Chris Eldin said...

This is very, very tragic.
Thank you for honoring him (and his family) in your post today.

Clare2e said...

That's a sad story about an obviously fine man. Reminds us to honor all the fallen, not just those from the battlefield, but those who suffer from lasting wounds of all kinds.

Bina said...

That is just so very, very sad. I don't even know what to say. I feel for his family and hope they make it through this.