For Ryan Naegle, junior marketing major, the transition from soldier to college student was somewhat difficult.
“It was hard to get back to studying… I forgot how to do a lot of that stuff,” he said.
Naegle was part of a maintenance and construction battalion in Iraq and he, along with the rest of America, heard about President Obama’s declaration from the Oval Office last Tuesday that the seven year-long war known as Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. In accordance to an agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave the country by the end of 2011.
But Naegle said that the war isn’t ending – it’s just moving from Iraq to Afghanistan.
“(Instead of being) sent to Iraq, now everyone is being deployed to Afghanistan,” Naegle said. “I also think that we’ve wasted a lot of money in comparison to what is actually being done.”
The decision to pull out troops has been met with mixed reactions.
However, some believe that Iraq is not ready for total withdrawal. Dylan Richardson, senior physical education and health promotion major and Iraq veteran, said that things in Iraq were just beginning to head in the right direction.
“I served (there) for almost one year (from 2007-2008), and I’ve seen the positives that we were doing. Great things were (happening) that were worth the losses we’ve suffered,” Richardson said.
Both Naegle and Richardson agreed that troop withdrawal from Iraq will be a long, gradual process that will most likely extend past the 2011 timetable, but there will always be some shred of U.S. occupation.
Richardson also said that a sudden end to U.S. occupation would be irresponsible and compared the scenario to the Wild West.
“Before we got there, Iraq was actually had quite a bit of security, and it was a very safe place to be, but when we showed up, it was like free reign. We destroyed their entire government, the least we could do is help them get back on their feet,” he said.
He also said that terrorism rates are not likely to change very much, except they may become more violent since the governing body – U.S. troops – will have less influence.
According to Richardson, many of the problems in Iraq stem from a lack of education, as terrorist groups usually target young, illiterate men with little or no schooling. He believes that once a strong, educational foundation is established, the situation will turn around.
Some agree that this was the right move for America, while others are worried that progress made during the past seven years could be jeopardized.
Richardson said that he experienced both positives and negatives.
“It was great to be back with family and friends, but when you live with someone for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you begin to miss that bond… you bond well in the most miserable situations. Other than that, it was easy,” he said.
Currently, Richardson is on his way to graduating in October will be deployed to Afghanistan in December where he will provide security for a Kansas agricultural team. He is optimistic for the mission and grateful to ESU.
“I’m really thankful that ESU has made so many exceptions for me and allowed me to do the program so I can graduate on time. From the dean to my professors, they have really gone above and beyond to help me out,” Richardson said.
According to Dave Hendricks, Director of the Memorial Union, there have been no specific plans regarding a dedication of memorial for the Iraq War in the union, but he is certain it will happen after the renovation is complete.
Kenzie Templeton/The Bulletin