Veterans' Voices: Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

27 July 2018 By Zach Waddle 0 Comments

CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with difficult subjects such as suicide, combat, sexual assault, and other traumatic events. I strongly urge ANY veteran to use the available resources that the VA provides. Visit the nearest VA, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or visit the Veterans Crisis Line website -- there are people who want to help! For more information, please visit the Veteran and Military Center’s Psychological Counseling page on the WSU website.

The War in Afghanistan been an ongoing conflict since October 7, 2001. Shortly after the September 11th attacks, the campaign known as the War on Terror began. The Iraq War officially began on March 20, 2003 and would last until December 18, 2011. As the War in Afghanistan is still underway, it is the second-longest combat force participation in U.S history, just behind the Vietnam War. With the support of an international coalition, the brave people of the U.S. military have fought terrorism overseas and at home. These amazing interviews from veterans of the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War offer a chilling insight into the world of modern combat.

Natalie D’Alessandro

Jeniffer Seavey

In 2004, Natalie D’Alessandro accepted a commission in the Air Force. Beginning as an air battle manager, she would take on the duty of an air weapons officer and, later on, an electric combat officer. D’Alessandro described as much of her work as she was allowed to, which included securing the skies for an important traveler. She spoke of her deployments during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and recalled having flown on 32 combat sorties. On the subject of life after the military, D’Alessandro discussed the resources available to veterans in the Dayton area.

Clifford Rosenberger

Adrian Hill

Former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard in 1999. His parents met while his father, serving in the Army Reserve, was deployed to Korea. After finishing basic training at Lackland AFB, he remained there for his technical training in traffic management. Rosenberger had just started his first year at Wright State when the September 11th attacks occurred. He would later accept a job with the White House that would begin his political career.

Kellan Arick

David Berry

Kellan Arick joined the Air Force in 2011, becoming an Aircraft Armament Systems apprentice. He described the pressures of loading bombs especially during his time in Korea in 2013, which he recalled as an otherwise enjoyable experience. Despite wanting to stay in the military, a forced separation would result in him receiving an honorable discharge. After the military, he enrolled at Wright State to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

David Berry

David Morse

In 2010, David Berry began his service in the Army. Although he initially wanted to become a scout in cavalry, he instead chose to become a paratrooper. After two years of additional training at his first duty station, he was deployed to Afghanistan. He recalled the daily attacks during his deployment and the experience of going on patrol. Berry explained that his off-road driving training had prepared him for driving on the dangerous mountain terrain.

John Lee

David Berry

Before entering the military in 2013, John Lee worked in the airline industry. His brother had joined the Air Force one year prior. He explained that his decision to work in personnel came out of a desire to take care of other servicemembers. After experiencing sexual assault, he would be transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB. Lee spoke of his time in the military, describing the experience as a period of self-discovery. However, he recalled that it was a toxic work environment which led to his decision to leave the military.

Brendyn Melugin

Lucas Schroeder

Frustrated with school, Brendyn Melugin chose to enlist in the Army in 2013. He served as a military policeman and would attend airborne training. However, while preparing to parachute from a plane, an accident occurred that nearly ended his enlistment. Melugin discussed his work as an investigator in the military and the types of cases he dealt with, some of which would stick with him for a long time. Despite working hard to overcome his injury, he would eventually be medically discharged.

Lucas Schroeder

David Berry

Lucas Schroeder cited the 1962 film The Longest Day, starring John Wayne, as his inspiration for joining the Army in 2012. As a military policeman, he would attend the army Airborne School after basic training. He discussed the different duties he performed, such as going out on road patrols. During his duty as an MP, he was a first responder to a training accident that resulted in the death of a friend. Schroeder also reflected on the unfortunate loss of his mentor, as well as the injury he sustained during a nighttime landing.

Christine Margherite Black

David Morse

During her service beginning in 2004, Christine Black would deploy to Kuwait and Iraq, serving as an avionics technician. She recalled the mentorship she received during her service, and being sponsored for the Soldier of the Year award. Black shared a hilarious story about her first day in Iraq. She would go on to recount the story of an ambush that resulted in injury, saying, “I actually remember that, despite everything else, as my most painful experience in Iraq.”

Christopher Green

William Corkum

The son of a Vietnam Army veteran, Christopher Green began his career in the Air Force in 2005. He worked in Security Forces, initially being stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England before going on his first deployment to Kyrgyzstan for the first of two tours there. As he recalled getting into some trouble, he spoke of a senior master sergeant who helped him get on the right track. While at Wright-Patterson AFB, he performed his law enforcement duty under concurrent jurisdiction, which involved federal and state police working together.

Timothy Jones

David Morse

Timothy Jones enlisted in the Navy in 1998. Designated as a yeoman, he performed administrative and clerical duties. His first duty assignment saw him stationed in Japan at a Marine Corps Air Station, where he recalled experiencing harassment which led to being sexually assaulted by another servicemember. Jones reflected on the loss of his friend and described the disturbing homophobic and racially-charged abuse he suffered that brought about the end of his enlistment. Despite the suffering he endured, he found strength through helping others and is currently providing sexual assault and rape prevention training.

Sanchez Le’Flore

David Morse, Jeniffer Seavey

With a Navy veteran father and a sibling currently serving in the Navy, Sanchez Le’Flore would join the Army not long before the September 11th attacks. His first duty entailed working with radio equipment; after rejoining the Army in 2006, he would become an information systems specialist. In 2007, Le’Flore embarked on his first deployment to Iraq. During his time there, he recalled a difficult encounter at the hospital and a mortar attack that resulted in a health and welfare inspection.

Cody Poley

Jeniffer Seavey

Air Force veteran Cody Poley enlisted in 2009, serving in Security Forces. During his technical training, he would meet his future wife while helping her avoid an awkward situation. While stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, he and his wife would deploy to Iraq at the same time, but per regulations, they would work different shifts. He described the warm welcome he received upon his return. Poley sustained an injury during his service that he continued to deal with after his enlistment ended. He enrolled at Wright State to pursue a degree in computer engineering.

Paul Johnston

Adrian Hill, Jeremy Dobbins

Paul Johnston served as a commissioned officer in the Air Force for 20 years. He would work with personnel and take on positions in disaster control and deployment preparation lines. Johnston later signed on at the Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, where he trained ROTC cadets. He spoke of the difference in responses from the other branches of service after the 9/11 attacks. During his deployment to Iraq, he would see Operation Iraqi Freedom transition to the non-combat missions of Operation New Dawn.

Jeffrey King

Adrian Hill

Jeffrey King’s Air Force career stretched from 1987 until his retirement in 2012. As a security specialist, King’s first duty was in nuclear weapons system security, which involved going on convoys with nuclear missiles and warheads. Two years after returning from Korea, he separated, but would serve two years with the Ohio Army National Guard before transitioning back into active duty in the Air Force. During his tours of Iraq, King worked alongside international forces and trained the Iraqi security forces. Speaking of combat, one of the experiences he recalled was an attack on a convoy.

Jonathan Granata

Eric Wiete, Adrian Hill

The son of two Air Force veterans, Jonathan Granata was born on Wright-Patterson AFB. He would enlist in the Air Force in 2008 and became a loadmaster after extensive training. His first deployment to Kuwait included travelling to several other countries while flying missions. A second tour of Kuwait came shortly after his return home. This tour saw him performing many of the same duties as in his first tour, but this time he would also get to work with Navy SEALs. After he arrived in Germany, Granata experienced his first PTSD-related epileptic seizure. He spoke of the many more exciting missions he went on before being medically retired in 2013.   

Ashlie Hawes

Adrian Hill

I have previously discussed a portion of this interview in the blog about PTSD. Marine Corps veteran Ashlie Hawes began her enlistment in 2009. She initially worked in personnel administration, but she would later transfer to a training platoon and then to doing taxes before working in testing and evaluations. During her time in the military, she experienced sexual assault. After struggling to cope with what had happened for two years, she reached out for help. Hawes received therapy before returning to duty. On the day she was leaving the military, a shooting occurred in her barracks, although she was no longer staying there. Now pursuing a degree in human resource management, she plans to develop training for sexual assault and harassment prevention.

Colleen Schoonover

Adrian Hill, Jonathan Granata

Enlisting in the Army in 2008, Colleen Schoonover would serve in the Afghan War during Operation Enduring Freedom. In discussing her training as a cook, she explained food serving standards in the military. She recalled the transition to the combat lifestyle while in Afghanistan being easier than her duties stateside. While deployed, she would go out on missions in search of IEDs which would then be detonated by the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) crew. Schoonover discussed the experience of being a female in combat as well as how she met her husband.

Vince Taylor

Adrian Hill

Vince Taylor enlisted in the Army in 2005 and became a commissioned officer by 2006. At his first base, he worked as an artillery officer. In 2007, Taylor went to Iraq and performed fire-forced blowouts, which entailed launching rockets at explosive traps in order to safely detonate them. He shared other combat experiences, such as insurgents hiding in a mosque, and dealing with a bomb factory near a hospital. At the time of the interview, Taylor was still active in the Ohio National Guard.

For my final blog in the Veterans’ Voices series, I will be discussing life after the military.

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