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Iraq war veterans speak about experiences at SFCC

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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008 12:00 am

For Anthony Maroun, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, it was an air conditioner that changed his feelings about fighting in Iraq.

As the team leader of his unit, it was part of Maroun's job to keep the Dell computers they used from overheating in the desert climate. But as hard as he tried, Maroun couldn't manage to get the necessary air conditioner, which meant his unit couldn't do its mission.

"I finally asked a friend of mine, this contractor, to help me out," Maroun said. "He got the air conditioner so fast. But me, a leader in the Marines, wasn't connected enough to get the equipment we needed."

Maroun said for him, that air conditioner stood for the "corporate takeover of a country."

He was one of seven veterans of the Iraq war who spoke on a panel Thursday night at SFCC to an audience of about 90 people.

Scott Camil, a Vietnam War veteran and coordinator of Gainesville's chapter of Veterans For Peace, organized the event because he said he felt the men had definitely earned the right to speak, no matter how they felt.

The Santa Fe Democratic Saints, the Santa Fe Global Society Club and the Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism also sponsored the event.

Most veterans said fighting was difficult, but the men differed on whether they support the Iraq war.

Clifton Hicks, who served in the Army, described having only one bottle of water and one meal a day at one point while in Iraq.

"But we could watch these big-screen TVs," he said. "It was wild how they spent their money."

Hicks testified last week in Washington, D.C., before Congress as part of Winter Soldier, an event where hundreds of veterans gathered to describe the atrocities they committed and witnessed in Iraq.

Zollie Goodman, an aircraft director in the Navy who testified with Hicks, read a letter he'd written to his wife during his time in Iraq.

"War is pure manufactured evil," he read. "I miss you."

The letter, he said, expressed the mentality of a man split between high-intensity situations and then long periods of downtime.

One man in the audience stood up to thank the veterans, calling them all heroes.

"You aren't heroes," said another audience member, who said he was a Vietnam War veteran. "I wasn't a hero. I don't support the troops because the troops are the ones killing people."

He wasn't alone. Some people in the audience argued accusingly with the veterans that the Iraq war is pointless and needs to end immediately.

Robert Tyler, a 61-year-old Vietnam War veteran, stood up, he said, to try and stop the stone-throwing.

"When I came back from being in the jungle, I was mixed up," he said. "But I never gave up on America, and I never will. Don't feel guilty for what you've done. Get some education and change things."

Welcome to the discussion.