Iraq war: four-year reflection

Elise Franco

Overseas conflict still affects students at home

This month marked the fourth year of occupancy in Iraq, and with President George W. Bush deploying more troops, no end seems to be in sight.

Thousands of lives have undoubtedly been affected by the war. Three different people in three different situations reflect on how life has changed since March 2003.

Junior philosophy major Dave Airhart served four years in the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged on July 4, 2004.

Since returning, Airhart’s life has changed dramatically. When he was in high school, he said, he viewed the military as a way to prove he was tough.

“I wanted to be a badass, and I watched too many war movies, so I had this really (macho) view of what the Marines would be like,” he said.

He now suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which caused him to take a semester off from school.

“Sometimes, I am too afraid to leave my room, and it’s hard to be out in public for long periods of time, because after about four hours, I get really bad anxiety,” Airhart said.

He said his outlook on the war has changed as well. While overseas, he was stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and Japan – upon return, he described feelings of hatred and anger because of what he witnessed during the war.

“My intense anger has dissipated a little bit since then, which in turn allows me to reflect and discuss things in a more intellectual way, rather than having that primitive anger I felt when I first got out,” Airhart said.

He said one of the worst parts of the war is the civilian casualties, and he was upset by the news media’s watered-down version of the fighting.

“It’s hard to illustrate, via the news, the essential horrors of war. It seems a little watered down, but I still wouldn’t feel just in saying they’re doing a terrible job,” Airhart said. “It was just frustrating to come back and realize that those sides of the war weren’t making it onto the news.”

Freshman public relations major Kara Matovich’s situation is much different than Airhart’s. Her boyfriend is a Marine and is currently stationed in California.

She said he’s been enlisted since August 2006, and since then she has only seen him six days.

“I went down to North Carolina in October for his boot camp graduation, and then he was home for about five days over Christmas,” She said.

Matovich said her relationship has matured since her boyfriend left for the Marine Corps, and it’s strange to her when people complain about their significant others living an hour away.

“He’s 3,000 miles away from me, so it’s bizarre to hear complaints from other people,” she said. “We appreciate each other so much more, and we don’t fight about the petty things.”

Although their relationship has gotten stronger over the past seven months, Matovich said it hasn’t been easy.

“The strain is hard because every time I see a guy in a uniform I always want to talk to him,” she said. “It’s worth it though, because he’s worth it.”

Her view of the war has changed as well. Matovich said she used to strongly oppose the war, but now she is constantly watching the news and browsing to find out the latest from Iraq.

“I used to be anti-war, but after he joined, I got really obsessed with watching the news and researching,” she said. “I’m not pro-war, but I am pro-military, and I understand why they’re over there.”

Sarah Rubens, senior political science major, is a veteran when it comes to being in a relationship with someone in the military. Her ex-fiance, Charlie, spent the majority of their relationship in Germany as a member of the Air Force.

“You learn to be very patient. Patience and understanding is key when dealing with a significant other in the military,” Rubens said. “You always have to remember that the military dictates what they do, and sometimes they just cannot contact you. ‘Hurry up and wait’ will become your motto.”

She said when she saw Charlie after he had been deployed, his attitude and behavior had already changed.

“He was definitely more quiet and standoffish when he came back from his deployment,” she said. “His entire outlook and attitude toward life changed.”

Before the war even began, Rubens said she was strongly opposed to any military action in Iraq, and Charlie’s enlistment made her feel even stronger about it.

“It’s very hard to feel so strongly against the war and the Bush Administration’s policies, when that exact same administration basically holds your significant other’s life in their hands,” she said. “The entire experience honestly made me resent the Bush Administration even more than before.

“There is a huge difference between supporting the war and supporting the troops. I absolutely hate when pro-war activists claim if you don’t support the war, you don’t support the troops; it just disgusts me.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].