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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid