A soldier’s story

TaLeiza Calloway

Student veteran reflects on years of army service

Being a soldier and serving his country was something that Neale Linge always wanted to do.

The 26-year old student veteran, junior public relations major and Air Force ROTC cadet, enlisted in the United States Army in August 2000 and worked specifically in artillery.

“Every day was different,” Linge said of the experience. “There’s no telling what you might do.”

After enlisting in the Army, he was stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas. But leaving was not easy for Linge as he had a family – his daughter, Alexandra Peyton, was eight months old at the time and stayed at home with his wife Courtney.

This was not the first time the Linge family had a member serve in the military, however. Linge’s father is a chaplin in the United States Air Force and has been in the military for 26 years. Also, both of his grandfathers served in World War II. Given family history, Linge’s father did not want him to go the Army, but he was determined.

“Seeing my father gave me insight to what the military was like,” Linge said.

Growing up in the military, one gets accustomed to moving around. Soldiers are sometimes stationed on bases on a temporary basis. Linge saw this as a child.

“I grew up everywhere. I went to 10 schools in 12 years,” he said.

The call to the war effort came to Linge in April 2003 when the U.S. troops were shipped to Iraq. He was there for a year.

“It was an interesting experience, lots of good and some bad,” he said.

Linge remembers the look on the faces of Iraqi children when his unit arrived. They were so excited, he said. About 30 or more would follow them on their patrol asking for candy, he explained.

The downside to the experience was the heat, the bugs and the smell.

“It’s got a smell all its own,” Linge recalled.

While in Iraq, his unit helped establish medical clinics and schools. They even wrote home to get school supplies for the children.

“We brought in doctors and nurses and coordinated the building of the schools,” he said.

Linge’s main job was as a forward observer. He participated in raids looking for insurgents and contraband. It was the equivalent of being on a S.W.A.T. team, he explained.

“Our primary job is to go ahead of everyone and look for the enemy and call in the artillery,” he said.

Linge said he was apprehensive at first but proud that he joined. The camaraderie is what stood out the most to him.

“I never imagined the friendships and work relationships that I built,” he said.

People have their own views about what Iraq is like. Americans often focus on the negative images seen in the news that usually incite fear.

“There’s a lot more good happening in Iraq than Americans are aware of,” Linge said.

In August 2004, after four years in the Army, Linge decided it was time for a change. When he got out, he went to Harding University in Searcy, Ark., for a year and a few other schools that ultimately led to his arrival at Kent State.

This is Linge’s first semester as a Kent State student. According to Maj. Eric Gang, Air Force ROTC commandant of cadets, Linge is doing well in the ROTC program.

“Between class, leadership labs, field training preparation and physical training, he’s performing very well,” Gang said.

As a student veteran, Linge is one of many soldiers who will be honored tomorrow on Veteran’s Day. Although the holiday means many things to many people, Linge had his own interpretation.

“It means freedom and all the sacrifices that have been made in the name of freedom,” he said. “It’s a day to remember the great men and women who died for their country.”

Contact features correspondent TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected].