You See the True Hatred that Humanity Has

Published 8:23 am Monday, February 4, 2019

Editor’s Note: Students from Elizabethton High School recently worked on a project in which they had to write profile pieces on local veterans in the community. The Elizabethton Star will be publishing one piece a day, highlighting both the work these veterans have put into their communities and the students who have spent time and energy telling their stories.

By Baylee Creasy

EHS Student

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Has someone that means a great amount to you ever admitted that they have ended another person’s life? While interviewing my Uncle Dave, a Global War on Terrorism soldier, I ask, “If you could go back, is there anything you would change?” he pauses and says,

“If I could do that, there would still be a lot of people alive today that are not.” He answers with an abundance of seriousness, in his voice and on his face. There is silence for a few moments. I had always known my Uncle Dave would do anything for this country, no matter what that meant. This comment still takes me by surprise, but does not change how I view him.

Many turn to the military as a way out of a bad situation, and David is no exception. He grew up in Flint, Michigan, but moved to Corunna, Michigan when he was thirteen. There, he attended middle and high school. David “excelled academically,” and participated in athletics. Although he was good in school, he did not pursue a college degree after high school; instead, he joined the Army. “Growing up wasn’t the easiest…and I decided I wanted to get the hell out of there.” So, one month after graduation, David left for basic training.

During basic training new soldiers learn their new way of life, war tactics, and many more things. It usually lasts six weeks and is challenging for many. While in basic, new soldiers are not able to communicate with those at home, except for limited phone calls and letters. This is hard enough, and then they have the added emotional and physical challenges also. David found that “Basic training was very challenging for [him], both mentally and physically at first, but it got easier as time went by and [they] got into a good routine.”

David joined the Army in 2000, and was in for four years before he went to serve his country overseas, in Iraq, during the Global War on Terrorism. This war was the result of the attacks on America, on September 11, 2001. I ask Dave how he felt about getting deployed, and he answers confidently, “I knew that I had picked a combat job, and I was excited to get to finally go and do my job.” Although he was excited, he says his family was “less than happy.” At this point, David was married and had a daughter, who was less than a year old. David elaborates on the family topic by stating, “It was rough leaving…It causes a huge strain on a family.” Giving off the feeling of grief and anguish.

The months leading up to David’s deployment in 2004, David was training for missions, getting more proficient with his tasks, and getting briefed in where he was going and what  he needed to expect. Sadly, this took time away from his family before the deployment. When deployed to an outpost of Baghdad, Iraq, David was a Sergeant E5. He was an infantry team leader, and was responsible for himself and three other men. I ask him “What was your job there?” He says, “Basically anything that we are told to do.” David took part in the Second Battle of Fallujah, a joint mission between the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army. During this battle, the Marines and U.S. Soldiers worked to bring down Islamic insurgents. He also did a short period of time as a gutter on a fighting vehicle and some on call things as a team leader for a sniper team.

While deployed, David lived in two apartment-like buildings that had been bombed out called the “Twin Towers.” He says, “They were not bad… but they were easy targets.” Although they were treated fairly well, David found it hard to find a hot meal. He lived on packaged, ready-to-eat meals, also known as MRE’s, ninety percent of the time. He says, “We would end up back in the Baghdad International Airport [after working throughout the day], or the green zone, where they had midnight chow. Where we were able to, on occasion go get a hot meal. But there were alot of restrictions to go into the dining facility there because we were all nasty and sweaty. Just summertime in Bagdad is 100 plus degrees everyday so you’re sweaty head to toe, you smell bad, we’re dirty, our uniforms are torn up.” Soldiers looking for a hot meal would, more than likely, be turned away due to their appearance. I ask how he felt about this and he responds with, “We were already pretty pissed off and bitter, for the most part, and it just made it worse.” Being someone that has heard about this for the first time, I am hurt to know that American soldiers were treated this way.

Although the soldiers had differences with the people at the dining facility, they formed decent repore with the people living around them. David describes playing soccer with the children, without any protective gear or guns, but also says “The thought [of a child being used to harm them] was always in the back of the mind.” Hearing this makes me recall learning about the use of children as weapons in history class, but it brings out a sense of sadness in me, to know that someone would actually do this to a child. Despite this being sad, it would be an easy way to harm American soldiers because “[They] are compassionate towards children.” David also mentions having a translator, whom the men formed a good relationship with. He lived with the men and would bring them things, such as chicken or goat meat; food from the streets was a “huge treat for [them].”

During the deployment, David was able to communicate with those at home on occasion. Family, friends and organizations would send care packages with various things inside. Computer access was still limited, so the majority of communication was done through letters. Occasionally, he was able to talk on the phone with those at home. When talking to his family, he would tell them, “Don’t watch the news…or if you do, don’t take it as the whole truth because it’s not.”

In many wars, the media portrays it as something that it is not. David believed that “most of the news was embellished or lies.” Therefore, David did not watch the news, and if he did, he was quickly angered by what he heard or saw. He also believes that the news still doesn’t portray things as they were, or are. To this day, he still doesn’t pay much attention to the news.

I ask David how he got through difficult times and he says, “It depends, you see a lot of things. You see the true hatred that humanity has towards one another. There’s things you can’t imagine a human being would do to another human being without thinking. There’s no really right answer to get through that, you just kinda have to put it in the back of our mind. Seeing people die, whether it be friends or enemies, everyone of them takes a toll on you at some point. Whether you exhibit symptoms at the time, or you wait to digest it and it comes out later.” For David, he released many of the emotions he faced by putting them on paper. He kept a journal throughout the deployment, where he wrote everything down.

Going into his deployment, David was told he would be there for twelve months, the typical deployment time. Due to changes in the office, his deployment was pushed to fourteen months. This news exasperated David. He says, “We had exhausted our last care about anything. We had no passion left.” Although he was angry with this, he was excited to come home.

When returning home, many of the soldiers “were excited to come home, just not happy about the situation they were coming home to.” There were thirty-four people in his platoon, and upon return, fourteen of them got divorced immediately, including David. Although he got divorced, his return home was very good. He says, “The country was still very patriotic.” He also elaborates to say that he got away with a lot. He says that driving overseas, you go extremely fast due to not wanting to get shot or blown up. When some soldiers returned home, they still drove fast. David explained how a simple explanation to the cop about where he had been and why he was driving that way, oftentimes, was enough to get him out of trouble. Since returning from Iraq, he doesn’t have nightmares; he “sleeps like a baby.” However, the war has had an emotional effect on him. He says, “It changed my demeanor. I am very emotionally shut down, and not very compassionate. A large event won’t anger me, but a small series of things will trigger me into anger.”

David continues to serve his country today. He is now a Blackhawk Pilot and he has risen to the rank of CW3. He says of finishing his first tour, “I don’t believe that I could find another job at the time where I felt accepted as I was and who I was.” In less than two years, he will retire from the Army and open up a new chapter of his life. He expresses happiness and excitement as he talks about retirement and the opportunities available to him. He has the option to fly for EMS, teach at a local flight school, pilot corporate jets, and numerous other options. David recently received a phone call from a private pilot, who works for the owner of the New York Rangers. David has many ways he could go, and finding the right path will be an exciting adventure for him.

Going forward in life, David will still carry the Army with him. The biggest take away he has is the “brotherhood.” The Army has been a part of David for eighteen years and has shaped him into the person he is today. He is proud of his eighteen years of service, and after hearing his story, so am I.