Veterans Speak Their Peace

For many American collegestudents, the War in Iraq was and is their life. “I signed up for the college money, not for the grand idea for serving the country; it’s because of the lack of social programs,” Iraq war veteran, UVM student and ex-Marine Matt Howard said.Last Friday at Burlington City Hall, Howard met with Drew Cameron, a former field artillery soldier stationed in Iraq who is now a UVM student, to oppose the War.”I cannot express to you how urgent the situation is, it is so dire that it is worse than when Saddam was in power. I can tell you with absolute clarity that the military occupation will never benefit Iraq,” Cameron said.Like Howard, many American college students seek the money that is offered by the U.S. military to pay for their higher education. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a program that offers scholarshipsto students, requiring them to sign a four-year contract with the army after their third year of participation in the ROTC.”We prepare young Americans of character for service of the nation. One of the misconceptions of ROTC is that we train them to be combatants.We are a leadership training program,” Chair of the Military Studies DepartmentSteven Koebrich said.Koebrich does not see signing a contract with the army as synonymous with going to Iraq. “The only thing you commit to when you sign a contract is to serve the Constitution and the president, whether that requires going to serve in the humanitariancorps in Africa or Iraq.””I don’t support any military recruitment. It’s sad that recruiters lie and make a lot of promises and that students feel they need to go to the military to get an education,” Co-President of Students for Peace and Global Justice Sam Maron said. “ROTC makes it possible for people to get a good education.With Iraq it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we need soldiers in this country. I don’t think we should be there, but in 20 years we would be worse off if we just left now. It’s easier said than done,” said Ben Gutteridge, a UVM participant in ROTC.UVM Professor Helen Scott spoke at Friday’s anti-war demonstration, saying that the war “has a devastating effect because students are living in a war economy. I think it makes students fear for the future.” Whether UVM students support or oppose the War in Iraq, many will see the conflict first hand as members of the U.S. armed forces.”It is a sad thing to think that it is the 18- to 25-year-olds who are pulling the trigger. I was just a kid. I still am a kid,” Cameron said to a standing ovation during the anti-war demonstration’s closing moments.