Student veterans reflect on Iraq War

Five years ago, Brandon Day was fighting for a war that he now says is unjustifiable and wrong. Day spent time questioning why he was in Iraq, but was never able to find the answer.

This year, the civil engineering sophomore and Iraq War veteran is protesting in hopes for an end to the war.

“I’ve been there, I’ve seen it and what I’ve seen is wrong,” Day said.

The fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq was Wednesday. For Day and others, the anniversary was a time of reflection.

Sept. 11 was motivation enough for Day to join the military. He said he was young and strong and figured he should fight for his country. Day started training shortly after the attacks and joined an infantry when he was deployed.

But he said the person he was while fighting in Iraq from 2005 to 2006 was not the same person he is today.

“Over there, you do what you’re told,” he said. “That’s what you have to do to survive.”

Day said going on raids and hitting people’s houses, villages or entire towns to look for weapons was a “joke.”

“It was so few times that we ever actually found anything that these people weren’t supposed to have,” he said.

Coming back for him was nothing more than a relief. Day said he was glad to be home, but wasn’t filled with extreme happiness and excitement.

“It’s just like thank God that’s over now,” Day said.

But during the first few months he was home, he couldn’t identify the emotional problems he was having. And although help and resources were available for Day, he decided not to use them.

“I never wanted to seek help because I had no faith that the army would be able to give adequate help,” he said.

A medic’s view

A school had just let out when al-Qaida forces blew up a crowd about a mile off the Al Taqaddum base where Derek Teed was stationed.

Teed’s base received casualties from the incident that killed about 45 people, he said.

The global studies sophomore was a medic who was responsible for transporting blood donors to the trauma center, while soldiers on his squad were trying to save “little boys from bleeding to death,” he said.

“It’s funny, al-Qaida blows up all the civilians and the American soldiers are the people trying to save them,” he said.

Teed was stationed about 46 miles west of Baghdad in Al Taqadum for approximately 13 months.

He believes he wasn’t fighting for the United States, but for Iraq.

“When people say ‘thanks for serving our country,’ I say ‘I didn’t really serve our country, I served Iraq,’ ” he said.

As a medic, Teed said what he saw was limited, but said U.S. soldiers are doing their best to save Iraqis from the violence of al-Qaida.

“They murder people. They come to town, they shoot people in the head and leave,” Teed said.

He said he was fighting for humanity, not for any country in particular.

Teed added that it’s a burden on the United States to have to keep sending troops to Iraq, but he’s not sure if the security forces are good enough for a pullout.

“There is a lot of good people there,” he said. “I hope for the best.”

On-campus resources

At 21 years old, Teed is only a sophomore. He could have been graduating this year had he not left for Iraq.

The University Veterans Advisory Committee is formed of members from various departments on campus to facilitate dialogue between students and their instructors.

Carin Anderson, committee member and One Stop veterans’ coordinator, said as a veteran herself, she knows what it’s like to be out of school for a while and have to come back and readjust.

“We try to make sure they have a really good transition from military member to student,” she said.

Anderson was activated in the Wisconsin National Guard and was one of the first members to go to Iraq. She said she had to leave three days after her activation.

One of the things the committee helps students with is receiving credit for courses they are enrolled in when they suddenly get deployed, Anderson said.

She added that many student veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder when they return, so health benefits are also available for student veterans at Boynton Health Service.

An election year

Women’s studies sophomore Tracy Molm said it’s important to mark the anniversary since it’s an election year.

“It’s ridiculous this war has gone on as long as it has,” she said.

Funding a war that she thinks is unjustifiable causes a burden on students with loan and debt money, Molm said.

As a member of the Students for a Democratic Society, Molm is an organizer of an anti-war protest that will take place on campus this Friday to mark the anniversary.

Day said he thinks the war is about corporate profit and power, not about terrorism.

“That’s where the money is,” he said. “This isn’t about terrorism, it never was about terrorism in Iraq.”