Boone, North Carolina | With increasing media attention on issues of the day such as Social Security, the installation of the new Pope at the Vatican, and the Michael Jackson trial, you could understand why some people might be under the impression that the War in Iraq is a done deal.
When you talk to Navy Corpsman 2nd Class Charlie Anderson, however, you begin to realize that there are many unresolved issues regarding our country’s conflict in Iraq.
“There are 50 to 60 attacks on U.S. personnel every day in Iraq,” said Anderson Tuesday in a phone interview. “Make no mistake about it, we’re still in Iraq.”
Anderson recently got out of the Navy after a stint in Iraq and has made increasing the public’s awareness about the war and about veterans’ issues his top priorities.
Anderson was first deployed to Iraq during the initial invasion on February 1, 2003 and worked as a medic with a tank division in country until May 28, 2003. The tank division stayed on the move around Basra and Bagdad until it was moved out of country into Kuwait.
“Tank divisions are a big target,” said Anderson. “So we tend to keep moving.”
Anderson retired from the Navy three weeks ago, receiving an Honorable Discharge after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I’ve been in treatment for PTSD and pretty much couldn’t continue with the duties of my job,” said Anderson.
After become a leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War, Anderson decided the best way to utilize his experiences was to tell the public about ways in which he feels that veterans and active military personnel are being treated unfairly by the policies of the Bush Administration.
“There was a lot of misunderstanding among military personnel and the public about why we went to war in the first place,” said Anderson. “I’m trying to raise the collective consciousness of the people who were lied to. Most of the people in the military went in wanting to help other people. Some went in for job opportunities, some went in to better themselves as people, and some went in to get money to go to school.
“We were misused and misled. At first we were told that it was about weapons of mass destruction. They were not there and our leaders knew that before the invasion. We were told that there was a link between Iraq and 9/11 when there was no such link. And we were told that Saddam Hussein was a threat when he was no threat whatsoever.
“We keep losing good people over there and it’s wrong.”
Anderson also wants people to know that the government is reneging on promises made to military personnel regarding education and health benefits for veterans.
“Veterans benefits are a completely under-funded aspect of the war,” said Anderson. “There are a lot of vets coming home that are going to need those benefits and they just aren’t going to be there. That was supposed to be the deal with an all-volunteer military. We have contracts that we signed in good faith and now they are not being honored. I’m speaking to people to tell them that if we send people to war, we need to be willing to honor those contracts and do the right thing when they get home.”
Anderson is particularly dismayed that the current conflict in Iraq has been put on the back burner and that the media seems reluctant to cover the issue of wounded veterans that are trying to put their lives back together at home.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t even realize that there is still a war going on in Iraq,” said Anderson. “I talked to a high school group a couple of weeks ago and one guy asked me what war I was talking about. He was honestly surprised when I told him that we were still in Iraq. The problem is that we just don’t hear about it as much these days.”
As a medic, Anderson saw his share of wounded men and women and he feels that one of the bigger problems related to the War in Iraq is the number of disabled Americans that will have to be rehabilitated stateside.
“A lot has been made of the fact that this war has resulted in a lower number of people killed (1,559 American deaths as of Wednesday, April 19) in this conflict compared to, say, the Vietnam War,” said Anderson. “A lot of that is due to modern medicine and advances in in-the-field care. A lot of people who would have been dead in Vietnam or in other wars have been kept alive. They’re coming back to communities that are simply not prepared to receive them. They are becoming misfits in their own communities, without the help or training that they will need to become useful members of society for the rest of their lives. That issue is like the elephant in the room that no one is willing to talk about.”
Anderson stated that he plans to use this weekend’s speaking opportunities as a chance to tell people about what it was like in Iraq and to remind them that there is still a war taking place.
“When I returned home to Virginia Beach, I felt a very hollow sense of support from a lot of people in my community,” said Anderson. “When I went to church that first Sunday, a lot of people pointed to the yellow stickers on their cars that said ‘Support Our Troops.’ But those same people did very little to help my family or send letters to the troops in Iraq. It takes about 30 seconds to buy a sticker at Wal-Mart and put it on your car. But what does it really mean?”
Anderson said that there are some very able and committed groups that are now being formed to create tangible support for both active military personnel and returning veterans.
“I’m going to continue to go around and speak on these issues as long as we have problems to solve,” said Anderson. “I want our troops to come home now and I want our veterans to have the benefits to which they are entitled.”
Corpsman Anderson, currently working as the Southern Regional Coordinator for the organization Iraq Veterans Against the War, will speak on Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at the ASU Catholic Campus Ministry Building at 232 Faculty Street. He will also speak on Saturday, April 23 at 7 p.m. in the Roan Mountain Room at ASU’s Plemmons Student Union and on Sunday, April 24, he will lead a discussion group at the High Country United Church of Christ on State Farm Road in Boone. Also on Sunday he will speak at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Council Street in Boone at 2:30 p.m.
All talks are free and open to the public.
By Jeff Eason
©The Mountain Times
Boone, North Carolina