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us-army-soldier[1]

Uriel A Rosales
English 1302-P28
October 14, 2012

Iraq Conflict and Effects on the US veterans

Have you ever been stressed about little things during your daily life that are not worth the stress? Now imagine an Iraq veteran that came from a tough living environment and most of all a stressful environment not knowing if they were going to wake up the next day. The Iraq war, as many might know, has been one of the longest and most difficult wars that the USA has been a part of off all times. According to William Clark during his professional essay called The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth he explains the main reasons for the war are the following: “One of the core reasons for this upcoming war is this administration’s goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard. However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves.” Since this war has been imperative to the US economy, it has put our military service under pressure making it the most difficult, demanding and dangerous war for our soldiers more than ever. This causes negative effects on the majority of soldiers from Iraq which includes psychological, sociological, and even physical effects upon their lives. Taking this into consideration, many of the soldiers come back from Iraq with these problems and others not mentioned. Luis Alejandro Flores is one of those brave soldiers that put his life in danger for our country, but is now suffering the consequences of the transition from military to civilian life.

During the time I was interviewing my cousin Luis Alejandro Flores, who was born March 20, 1991 and whom is currently 21 years old I discovered some of the post war effects that are now present in his life. Luis was born in McAllen, Texas but grew up most of his life in Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin and it was in Wisconsin during his high school years that he enlisted in the Army. Luis said during his interview “I was 17 when I enlisted, 19 when I was deployed to Iraq.” When asked about what was his motivation to join the army, his response was “to make something of myself, have a secure future and contribute to our society” and for most soldiers according to Marco O’Brien from the official website of the USA military called military.com, the top ten reasons that people join the military are education, money, medical coverage, a career, travel, camaraderie, direction, real word skills, honor, and just because. Several of Luis’s reasons were those of the top ten, as he mentioned he wanted to make something of himself meaning that he wanted to gain a career and money through the army. When asked about how he felt of his decision in joining the army he said “the army was definitely a good decision; it helped me get my head on my shoulders,” once again reaffirming what O’Brien said, that soldiers such as Luis see the army as a way to get direction and real world skills.
As soon as Luis landed, he quickly learned that his training was nothing in comparison to what now was his new life as a solider. It was harder; it required him to go through more mental and emotional tasks that up until than he had never experience. I asked Luis about his initial thoughts when he first arrived to Iraq, Luis recalls “when I arrived to Iraq, it was a whole other story. That’s when things went from being in training simulations to real life situations, and decision making.” He said it reminded him of the feelings he got when he arrived to basic training but ten times worst, he explained those feelings that he got in basic training “I took a bus to get to my basic training. As soon as the bus stopped a big nigger got on the bus and started yelling at us. I was carrying a whole bunch of bags, and it was hard to maneuver around. I remember thinking, what the hell did I get into. Hahaha!,” although they had train them with intense techniques as I was able to see by this answer, being at war was different and not in a good way.

I wanted to go into depth of what type of experiences he went through during his time in Iraq so that I could understand where he was coming from when he spoke about post war and his civilian life. One of the most memorable experiences he came across was the following, “my most memorable experience was trying to save two of my friends’ life, I watched one of them die right in front of me. The other was completely burnt from head to toe, his guts were hanging out and our medics kept trying to push his guts back in and every time we tried too he would moaned and groaned, unfortunately they both died. We put them in a body bag. Well tried to at least (with all the body parts), put them in a helicopter and saluted them as the helicopter left into the night.” According to an internet article done by Rich Morin it mentions that during an recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans, for 32% (which was the highest percentage of the survey) of the soldiers it is a had re-entry into civilian life if he or she experienced a traumatic event, such as the one Luis went through. In reference to the Pew researchers they made an analyze that the attitudes, experiences and demographics characteristic of veterans help predict whether it will be hard or easy for veterans to adjust to civilian life. As I interviewed Luis I notice in the way he express himself and the way he directed himself to me was that of a solider that has been having a hard time to adjust because of his experiences and attitude. One thing he mentioned that made me see this, was when I asked him if he had regrets of anything that he participated in, he answered “I don’t like having regrets, because when it comes to war, its either them or you.” When he said “I don’t like having regrets” he said it as if he did have regrets but at the same time he has a justification which it was “because when it come to war, its either them or you.” He said as if he is still trying to simulate what he went through.

Moving forward, when I asked Luis about how he felt coming back to civilian life, his answer was the following: “I hate civilians sometimes. We were told to be fast, and execute, if we can’t, than we have to improvise on the spot. Civilians take forever, if some things are too hard they can’t make it happen. But what I dislike the most is that they complain way too much, and that they take everything that they have for granted.” The answer that Luis gave about coming back to civilian life was a great example of a clue that he deals with something called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a recent study called Longitudinal Assessment of Mental Health Problems Among Active and Reserve Component Soldiers Returning From the Iraq War which the author was Charles S. Milliken from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, he lets us know that a few of the questions that were asked on a survey to 88,235 US soldiers was related to the one that I asked Luis and the results showed positive to soldiers dealing with PTSD. The following are some of the questions asked in the survey given, “Having thoughts or concerns that you might hurt or lose control with someone,” and “Since return from deployment have you had serious conflicts with your spouse, family members, close friends, or at work that continue to cause you worry or concern?.” According to the results 90.8% were men, and out of those soldiers, 35.5% showed interpersonal conflict, PTSD, depression, and overall mental health risk, putting Luis as part of that percentage. In a second interview I did to Luis, I asked him if he has had any conflicts with his loved ones or people in general and he responded “yes, many! As soon as I came back, I don’t know why but everything and anything that my mom did or said to me pissed me off! I would realize after the fact that I was rude and hurt he feelings I would go and apologize” or “I’ve also had incidents when I go to a restaurant or public place, and they give me bad service, I flip out on them and the manager!” Luis also mention to me that since he came back from war he had started to become a heavy drinker and because of that he would always get flashbacks of things that happened to him. This is confirmed the study that Rick Morin did called The Difficult Transitions from military to Civilian Life, in the study he says that many of the war veterans turned to drinking and Luis has done the same.

I have spoken to Luis after the interviews and he has let me know he is doing better. He still going to his monthly therapy and now has started going recently to church which has helped him spiritually and mentally. This interview has made me realize that Luis along with many others soldiers, that they’ve gone through a lot of experiences that we need to know how to appreciate. Although Luis has gone through a lot, he still has continued his life, he recently got married and has continued his civilian life.

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