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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid