According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53% of Americans believe the war, which began with the U.S. led invasion on March 19, 2003, is not worth fighting. 70% said the number of U.S. casualties, including more than 1,500 deaths, is an unacceptable price. Those feelings extend to soldiers' families and to veterans themselves.
"I think we should be over there because I'm for democracy 100% for this country, and for all the rest of the countries," Vietnam veteran Joseph Di Giovanni told VOA. He was among a group of about 50 people who recently gathered at a veteran's hall on New York's Staten Island to pack large cardboard boxes with magazines, candy, deodorant, toilet paper and other supplies for American troops in Iraq. "It's like World War Two," Mr. Di Giovanni said, "The public is behind this war."
Indeed, everyone at the veteran's hall supported the troops, if not the war itself. "I love my daughter," one woman who has a daughter in the Army said. "She's awesome. I love them all, really. They are all our children and we support them 101%. I feel that if I don't support the war, then I'm betraying the soldiers." "They need all the help they can get," added her husband.
Several people at the Staten Island veterans' hall said U.S. troops have not been receiving enough help, including basic supplies from their government. Among them was Chris, the event's organizer.
"Our service people are not equipped with what they need," she said. "No armored cars. No armoring on them. No supplies. When they first went over there, they didn't even have water to drink. They had to boil their water over there and put chlorine tablets in it. What we consider normal stuff is a luxury over there."
Chris's own son was shot in the chest. He survived because he bought a Grade Three bulletproof vest with personal funds. It is superior to the Grade Two armored vest that is issued by the military.
"If he didn't have the Grade III, he would have been dead and I would be here as the mother of a dead soldier," Chris said. "He always wanted to be in the military and he was very gung-ho about being in the military."
But Chris told VOA her son was less enthusiastic after he had been in Iraq for a while. "He couldn't come home fast enough," she said. "Seeing his best friends get killed and seeing his best buddy lose his legs… How would you feel?"
Chris never supported the war. "It should have never been," she said. And it's going to last another four years, guaranteed. And then maybe it'll quiet down. But there will be problems as long as there's oil there and our President wants the oil."
Sometimes the emotional injuries of war appear after the physical danger is past. Carol's daughter, an Army commander, is home now. But she was shot at eight times. Just before returning home, while walking with a fellow soldier in the Iraqi city of Ba'qubah, an unseen insurgent set off a grenade that killed her friend.
"And that could have been her," Carol said. "She has problems adjusting. She doesn't sleep at night. She sleeps on the couch and has the TV going. And I am sure in the future, if she smells something, or hears something, it'll elicit experiences that she's had in Iraq. And this will go on for a long, long time."
Frank Di Aurio has a son who was badly wounded when his military vehicle was ambushed, and was discharged last October. He says his son still has not received his Purple Heart medal, and certain key medical benefits. Despite those frustrations, Mr. Di Aurio does not condemn the war, but says he lives with conflicted feelings about it every day.
"At first I believed 100% in this war," he said. "We know Saddam Hussein was an animal and doesn't deserve to be alive today." "Unfortunately," he added, "innocent civilians by the thousands are being killed and Americans are being killed. Maybe we should just pull our soldiers, all the benefits to help them rebuild and spend it on our own country first. There are children starving in our own streets and all this money is going over there. It's a tough decision. That's why I'm mixed on what we've done."