News / USA

    Veterans of Iraq, Afghan Conflicts Differ on US Role Abroad

    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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora