The casket of Spc. Toccara Green in Baltimore Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005. Green was killed in an ambush in Iraq on Sunday. She is the first Maryland woman soldier to be killed in Iraq. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
“My Experience In Iraq Only Solidified My Resolve Against The War” “It's good to know that I'm not isolated, that there are a lot more people out there who think this war is wrong and want to end it. I'd like to see other veterans out there too. Tell 'em your story: where you stand.” [Thanks to Joel G and Martin Smith, who sent this in.]
2/6/06 By Erika Claich, Chicago Flame
Interview with Eric Ahlberg, U.S. Army veteran. Flame: What led you to join the army and how old were you when you enlisted? Eric: I was 20 years old and just about to receive my Associate's degree from the Community College of Lake County (CLC). I wasn't sure what was next for me or how I would continue to pay for school because my parents couldn't continue to support my education any longer. My friends were getting into $50,000 debts in order to pay for college, so money was a big issue, but it was also adventure. I needed something more than to go to school-the army seemed like the best choice to reach my goals.
Flame: Did the Army turn out to be what you had expected? Eric: I told everyone the army was going to be my four-year vacation, but I was lying to myself. I knew that it would be hard, but reality for me was much different than the fantasy. I was clueless about army life. I didn't even know you had to shine your boots! I knew you had to deal with crap during basic training, but I didn't realize that it actually lasted throughout your entire military career. I thought it was the 'new army.' I thought they wanted smart people to run the computers and technology, but they didn't really; they wanted people who would follow the army's doctrine.
Flame: What about Afghanistan? How did you feel when you found out you were going? Was it what you had expected? Eric: For Afghanistan as a whole we were pretty motivated. We felt, "We're going to do our job." But the first thing they told us about when we got off the plane was how to wear our boonie hat; there was no cool "your in war now" Hooah! Speech, just how to wear your hat. That's when I knew things were going to be different than I had expected. I ended up pulling guard duty everyday, 8 hours a day, for two months, sometimes it was 12 hours. It was the most exhausting, mind-numbing thing you could imagine.
Flame: Did you want the Hooah! speech? Eric: At first, it was what I expected. But eventually I began to look at it as "Don't masturbate (giving a long glorifying speech for your own pleasure) in front of me. Just tell me what to do, don't tell my why." They don't have to lie. If you don't do what they want you to do they'll take away your money, your time, everything. It was a real eye opener. I was like, "Wow. The army really isn't all that."
Flame: How was Iraq different than Afghanistan? Eric: Well, in Afghanistan, at first we didn't get attacked. Our base only got mortared a few times, but we were just lucky our tour was uneventful (for the most part); a lot of people have died in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, we knew it would be different because of the death toll and the Iraqis didn't want us there. There was a lot more attacks. In the first week someone in our battalion died. He was a machine gunner; he was in the same place as I would've been on that mission. I thought, "This isn't part of my college plan. I signed up before 9/11. I didn't expect this." In Afghanistan we felt invulnerable, but in Iraq you really felt your mortality. Flame: What turned you against the war in Iraq? Eric: I was never for the war in Iraq. I thought it was a farce from the get go. I was still in Afghanistan when I started hearing that we were going into Iraq. I got really upset because it didn't seem like we were accomplishing much in Afghanistan. There was so much more to do there, what were we going to Iraq for? But I signed the line. I was against the war but I had to keep it to myself. The army was "my investment." I had to go through it to get the college money.
My experience in Iraq only solidified my resolve against the war. Flame: How were you able to make it through? Eric: My whole method was to make sure me and my friends got home. If you're a peacekeeper, does that work? No, it doesn't. You have people that are trained to kill being peacekeepers. We didn't join the army to walk down the street and pass out flowers.
Flame: What about civilian casualties? Eric: I'm never surprised to hear about civilians dying. Those who are don't realize that the army is trained to kill. What do you think is going to happen?
Flame: What did happen? Eric: I saw three generations of a family mowed down by 1000 machine gun rounds. There was a grandfather, a father, and a son driving a chicken truck through a roadblock. They didn't know they were driving through a roadblock. They just didn't stop, and then they were dead. End of story. On one other day that I will never forget, I almost killed a mother and her daughter when we were ambushed. I jumped out of the truck and pointed my gun at the area where we were drawing fire. Your adrenaline is so high, even though you've been trained to pick targets, you are ready to kill. It was very close but I didn't want to kill anyone, someone who was not the enemy. How could you live with yourself after that?
Flame: How did you and your friends deal with combat? Eric: You can't feel safe anywhere.
I felt anxiety constantly-even going to take a shit because I was out in the open. Sarcasm was a tool for me to vent. Without it, everyone felt like they'd explode, there was so much stress and pressure.
During off time I would act like the class clown to release tension on our off time. But when we were being attacked, a common mentality was 'laughing at the face of death.' We'd nearly get hit by a mortar and everyone would laugh like, "man that was close!" I never thought that was funny. I wanted to live.
I really didn't believe in what I was doing. It made it much harder. Flame: How did you feel about the antiwar movement here at home while you were in Iraq? Eric: I didn't know about the movement. When you're in the army you're pretty isolated. I had no one to talk to about being against the war. The only news was FOX or CNN in short intervals. Flame: Well, now that you're a part of the movement, what do you think about it?
Eric: It's like a big social coalition: people getting together with people to achieve something greater than themselves, to put an end to an unjust war. It's good to know that I'm not isolated, that there are a lot more people out there who think this war is wrong and want to end it. I'd like to see other veterans out there too. Tell 'em your story: where you stand. It's therapeutic. Do you have a friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and we’ll send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and inside the armed services. Send requests to address up top.
IRAQ WAR REPORTS
Texas Soldier Killed February 13, 2006 The Columbus Dispatch, COLUMBUS, Ohio
The family of a central Ohio Marine killed along with two comrades in an explosion in Iraq has declined the military's offer to bury the 21-year-old at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. "He's been away long enough," Dennis Nealon, Pfc. Jacob Spann's stepfather, said Wednesday. Spann, a Humvee machine-gunner, was helping in a transport mission in the western Iraq city of Hit early Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated under the vehicle. Two Marines died instantly and Spann died a few hours later.
He was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and had been stationed in Iraq since November with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Spann, called Jake by his friends, graduated from Westerville North High School in suburban Columbus in 2003, then worked at an auto-body shop.
He enlisted in the Marines because he was worried he lacked direction and self-discipline, family members said.
"I was worried at first, but he had really thought things out," said Derek Spann, his oldest brother. "I told him, 'Semper fi.'"
Jacob Spann last called home Saturday and mostly talked to his mother, Deborah Nealon. In calls home he only wanted to talk about his family, including five brothers, three sisters and four nieces and nephews, Derek Spann said.
He had hoped to marry his high-school sweetheart, Abby Van Huffel, his family said.
Soldier With Omaha Ties Dies February 10, 2006 Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc., OMAHA, Neb.
An American soldier with family ties to Omaha has died from injuries he suffered during an attack in Iraq.
Spc. Allen Kokesh Jr. died Tuesday from injuries he received from a roadside bomb attack in December.
His mother has lived in Omaha for the past 10 years.
Kokesh is a native of Yankton, S.D. He was with the Army National Guard's 147th Field Artillery unit
A memorial service for Kokesh will be held in Yankton.
Attack On Fuel Convoy Near Taji Wounds 3 U.S. Soldiers 02.13.2006 By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, AP
A U.S. logistics convoy was attacked by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, killing one civilian believed to be a Pakistani truck driver and wounding three American soldiers, the military and Iraqi police said Monday. The attack happened near Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad, where a major U.S. air base is located, said military spokesman Maj. Joseph Todd Breasseale. The three wounded soldiers were taken to a military hospital for treatment, he said.
Iraqi police Lt. Alaa Kamal said the convoy consisted of three fuel tankers and another truck, which was destroyed by fire. Police found the body of the vehicle's driver inside the truck and identity documents said he was Pakistani.
REALLY BAD PLACE TO BE:
BRING THEM ALL HOME NOW
U.S. Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit fire 81mm mortars near the western Iraqi town of Hit, February 7, 2006. (Bob Strong/Reuters)