A conscious decision

Emily Andrews

Vets say volunteerism at heart of service

Bob Derga, a member of the Ohio chapter of Families United, shows a picture during last night’s townhall meeting in the Kiva of his son who was killed in Iraq. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Volunteerism for the military was a major point made by veterans and parents of veterans at the town hall meeting on Iraq last night in the Kiva.

“We all volunteer to be there,” said Dennis Bartow, member of the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005. “I want to go back.”

The townhall meeting on Iraq was sponsored by the Kent State College Republicans, Vets for Freedom and Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission.

The panelists were either veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom or parents of veterans killed in that operation.

All panelists stressed how people involved in the military choose to be there, and that when they are killed in action, they give their lives. Their lives are not taken.

“My son gave his life — it was not taken,” said Marla Knapic-Derga, parent of a veteran killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, when an audience member asked why so many lives had to be lost in the war.

They also stressed about how the United States has to stay in Iraq and win.

“The nature of (the) enemy is if we leave, the war’s not over,” said Jerry Ramey, member of Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission. “The enemy will follow us home. They did. They kicked our door down and killed 3,000 people.

“We can’t be naive. We don’t want war. I want it to end, but there’s one way to end the war, and that’s with a victory.”

Panelists stressed the importance of standing behind the troops.

“You can’t support the troops if you can’t support their mission,” said Nathan Martin, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005.

Sophomore Zack Fry said he was glad to hear the other side of the war.

“I thought it was good to hear a side that usually isn’t represented,” Fry said. “I also really liked how the veterans really knew their history and talked about their pasts.”

Martin said Middle Easterners don’t like Americans because historically they have not always followed through with their promises of support.

“In Iraq, if they support the military, they are dead,” Ramey said. “Not just them — their whole families are dead.”

The panel admitted the military has made some mistakes, but policy and strategy has changed and this has made a big difference.

“A key point I want to make is when I was in Iraq, a father let go of his daughter and she ran up to me,” Martin said. “I looked into her eyes and saw my daughter’s eyes. I want to give the world to their kids. I gave this child something her father and possibly grandfather couldn’t — a chance for liberty.”

During the question and answer section at the end of the meeting, tempers flared as some of the audience started a heated debate about different aspects of the war, such as the alleged loss of civil liberties, the Patriot Act and the alleged lying of the government as to why we declared war in the first place. The question and answer left neither side with a definitive answer that both could agree on.

“The people in debate need to come together,” Knapic-Derga said. “We have more in common than differences. We need to come together and unite for a stronger America.”

Contact news correspondent Emily Andrews at [email protected].