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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.