News / USA

Veterans of Iraq, Afghan Conflicts Differ on US Role Abroad

Elizabeth Lee

The United States observes Veterans Day November 11, a national holiday to remember and honor military veterans of all wars.  Veterans Day dates back to the end of World War I in 1918.  This year it falls less than two months before all U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq, and while nearly 100,000 American service members are still in Afghanistan.  Veterans of those recent wars have differing views about the U.S. military presence abroad. 

Inside a classroom at Santa Monica College, a group of students meet once a week to make friends and for support.  They are all military veterans, and for some, such as Monica Scates, the horrors of war are still very real.

“When I came home it took three years to transition after getting out.  That was such a feeling of being lost, that we were given no transitional training, no decompression,” she said.   

Scates served in the first Gulf War against Iraq 20 years ago.  When she returned home she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I lost my marriage. I lost my family, my home,” she said.

Scates eventually received treatment, and has just started college.

Fellow Army veteran Daniel Anderson served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  He joined the military shortly after finishing high school.

"I gave myself an ultimatum. If I don't do well in college, I'll join the military," Anderson said.

Another veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Christopher Bellingham, joined the Army for the education benefits that military service provides.

"I wanted some money for college," Bellingham said.

While these three Army veterans had military experience under combat conditions, their views about America’s future course in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the same.

Scates says U.S. troops should not leave Iraq at the end of this year. “To be honest with you, no, because it will be just like what we did during Vietnam.  We have to stabilize the people first.  They don’t have a stable government.  They don’t have a stable force,” she said.

Anderson disagrees. “I think it’s about time that we pull out because they, I think, are ready to stand up take it on their own,” he said.

Anderson says he is not sure whether the fight in Iraq was worth the cost, in either human or military terms.

“I’m glad Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.  And there is a lot of corruption, and you can see it. ... But that’s just a much more muddied water, you know.  I think that war was a political, strategic war, as opposed to a necessary, on-the-ground fight,” Anderson said.  

Bellingham says the U.S. should also get out of Afghanistan.

"There’s no purpose any more.  We’ve pumped so much money in that economy that we are their GDP [their entire economy].  We are how they’re making money now.  Regardless of when we pull out, they’re not going to be able to sustain to the level we brought them up to. The longer we’re there, the more damage we ... bring," Bellingham said.

But Anderson says the Afghan people need U.S. help against the Taliban.

"I think the people are really oppressed by that terrible organization.  I think that one is really worth fighting for," he said.

All three veterans say they don’t think the Americans fully understand what their troops are fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In part, they blame the American news media.

"The 'talking heads' on TV ... It gets lost in opinion as oppososed to fact," Anderson said.

For these veterans, their experiences in the military are shaping their future plans.  

Monica Scates wants to help homeless veterans.

“I want to work with [troubled] vets,  I want to get them off the streets,” Scates said.

Christopher Bellingham wants to conduct research on brain disorders, such as post traumatic stress syndrome.

"Definitely experiencing and seeing my friends go through PTSD, and their emotional coping, piqued a greater curiosity and drive," Bellingham said.

Anderson wants to be a screenwriter, to tell the story of what he saw.

Their experiences in war changed the lives of these three veterans, and they hope that life experience will enable them to change the lives of others - the people they will touch in their future careers.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid