By Guest Writer: Mike Atencio
I was born and raised in a decent sized town in mid-west Colorado, known simply as Colorado Springs. My town has lots of trees, lakes, and mountains, nothing of the desert scene. So when I joined the military and was told I would be going to Iraq to fight a war that I was unsure was necessary, it conflicted and scared me. I know nothing of that land or really of those people’s culture. What I did know is that I felt we had no business in that country to fight a war that had no real patriotic value to most. That going over there to help “govern” or liberate, heck or supposedly disarm the mass weapons of destruction that Iraq had stored up in warehouses, or underground caves seemed ludicrous to me, and a large portion of the country.
Being a disciplined Marine that I was, I kept my thoughts and feelings quite, packed up all my gear and prepared myself to invade this country full of terrorists, and brutish individuals that had not one decent bone in their bodies, or so I was told to think that. Because this “fight” was for my country, giving up my youth was to honor what had been done to our country on September 11, 2001. And to show the world that no one can dare come to our lands and kill our people, destroy one of our most loved cities, and still get away with it. So buying into the hype and propaganda I pumped myself up and was ready for action. You see, if I did not get my heart into it as much as I could that country would have destroyed me mentally and I knew that; even having to lie to the man in the mirror, to convince him this war had to happen.
Once we landed and got settled, this foreign land was exactly what we had been told it was going to be like, very hot very barren, no beautiful mountains, no crystal clear lakes, no fields of aspen trees, basically nothing like good old home that I took for granted. This was a place of death and terror, that needed us to liberate them, or so I had to tell myself endlessly. It got to the point where all I thought about was trying to convince myself that we had a true purpose being there, and to tell you the truth at first it was not too hard to believe that. I would look around and witness desolate cities, kids in rages, wild packs of dogs roaming the lands, desert creatures that still haunt my dreams. So yes being there to fight was the right thing to do, I bit into that lie for a little while anyways.
Now when someone’s heart knows that what is being done is not right, that life giving muscle will make believing things that are not true harder and harder. As it did to me, when I actually got to meet the people and get in close contact with them as if they were like old friends. They were not the brutish terrorists that I saw in hate videos, they are very curious compassionate people that have not just one decent bone in their bodies but many. They love to laugh and play soccer, yet have this shyness of young man afraid to ask the pretty girl to dance. My gear had to be something of wonder to them, it was for sure not the typical dress that they normally wore to battle the suns’ relentless assault. And not as you can imagine, we did not find these supposed “weapons of mass destruction”, what we did find were confused people torn by religious self-being, and a dictator that had a delusional image of world dominance.
What I came to learn was our Commander-in-Chief (also known as our President) had a nice huge claim in the black gold known as oil, which that country is full of, and that his father one of our former Presidents had unfinished business with the Iraqi dictator. That my feelings of discontent where correct. We had no business in that country. Yes it was amazing to liberate them from their leader, but I know in my heart that was not the main purpose of us inhabiting the lands they call home.
When you know something is not right in your heart, and you have looked at it from all aspects; it usually means that there is a good chance that what you are feeling is correct. As much as I loved seeing the peoples’ faces when that dictator was arrested, it did not make it ok in my mind that we are there or still are. The retribution of America being attacked was not being fulfilled, the individuals that attacked us did not reside in that land, nor did the people from Iraq have anything to do with the killing of hundreds of Americans, on that September morning.
As a warrior of this nation, and as a true patriot, my feelings of us invading a land that had no real threat to our country will never sit well in my stomach and soul. Defending America’s lands will be something that I believe in until the day I die, but it must be for that reason, not for financial gains, or to spread American influence around the globe, but to protect what is ours. I am ending with this thought, we are not the sheriff of the world, and basing our choices on gossip or desires is not what made this country so great. That is what will cripple us in the eyes of the world and worse in the eyes of our own people. And to the Iraqi people, I express my deepest apologizes for entering their homes and trying to change their culture. I can only hope that I represented America in a way that our Founding Fathers, and the generations to come can be proud of.
Mike is a classmate of mine. He was a marine who had two tours in Iraq. We have recently briefly talked about his experience in my country and mine in his. It is our responsibilities, mine and Mike's, to tell our people about the people of each others' countries and people and bring a clearer picture of the understanding that we are all people, we all value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as simply put in the U.S constitution, and we all yearn for peace. That peace will come when our people have better understanding of each other and focus on our similarities rather than our differences.
Wait for the follow-up interview with Mike Atencio.