Veterans blame media for lack of public awareness
United States Marine Corps. veteran Adam Belanger sits in the University of Massachusetts library shaking his head as he recalls a recent moment in his geography class.
"I'm the only person in my class that could point out Iraq on a map!" he said. "It's very frustrating because here in 'liberal capital' Massachusetts, where everyone is against the war, no one can find the war."
Some say that such a lack of awareness is caused by the inability of news organizations to depict accurately what is happening in Iraq. And, some veterans at UMass, including Belanger and Sol Black, believe that misleading and misperceptions of the war could have huge ramifications this election cycle.
Marine's memory lives on
When a baby in Iraq was born with a unique and life-threatening birth defect, University of Massachusetts student Eric Valdepenas jumped at the opportunity to lend a helping hand.
He was part of a group of Marines who volunteered to take the baby out of Iraq and transport it to a hospital in Boston where it received proper treatment. He received a purple heart for the mission.
Valdepenas also volunteered to put his education on hold to serve his country as a Marine in Iraq. He had every intention of returning to school after his tour, but one month before he was scheduled to come home in September 2006, he was killed when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle in Fallujah.
Veterans express mixed feelings on their treatment
University of Massachusetts junior Justin Rose was training with the ROTC not long ago when someone interrupted the session.
"We had a kid drive by and call us baby killers," said Rose, a 25-year-old veteran.
Rose is one of many veterans and other UMass students involved in the military who share mixed feelings about their treatment on campus. He said he's had an overall positive time at the university, but has experienced some remote negative incidents.
Coverage of war is down, study says
Deep into an election cycle, it seems readers are more likely to find out about Hillary Clinton's exaggerated trip to Bosnia or Barack Obama's breakup with former minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright, rather than the pressing issues facing the nation.
At the same time, coverage of the Iraq War has fallen off. According to a report by the PEW Research Center, just 3 percent of news coverage during February was dedicated to the war, down from 15 percent last July.
A plan for Iraq? Sgt. lays out his theory
Sgt. Kendrick Lau was among the first wave of U.S. Army Reservists deployed to Iraq. As a civil affairs soldier, his mission was to help "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi population.
Now, almost four years after his return, the UMass alum feels that continued major military presence "isn't worth our resources, unfortunately."
Lau, who received a political science degree in 2006, has developed his own theory about the best course of action to get U.S. forces out of Iraq.
Marine: 'We need to finish what we started'
Brad Durkin never really liked ceramics class and found little joy in watching the clock count down his final high school days. So, instead of spending months counting to a graduation ceremony he didn't consider particularly important, Durkin marched into his principal's office with an odd proposal.
Durkin arrived on Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot near Beaufort, S.C., less than 24 hours after his makeshift diploma became binding. The life-changing sequence of events was anything but a rash decision by a confused teenager.
Soldier says it's too late in Iraq
I was sitting at my butcher's block in my comfortable rural home, dinner heating on the stove. I was on my laptop, chatting with a friend, discussing what would happen when the 48 hour deadline President Bush set had passed.
It was March 20, 2003, just hours before the end of the deadline. I remember wondering, if Saddam Hussein and his sons didn't leave Iraq, would they immediately start bombing? Was this really going to happen?
Halfway around the world, my cousin, Kyle Frost, of Kernersville, N.C., sat waiting as well. Waiting for the message stating the deadline passed. Waiting for the order to start the attack on Iraq.
Iraq the top issue for UMass Marine
When Steve Shepard, a current UMass student, joined the United States Marine Corps in the summer of 2001, he had no idea what was in store for him. "I remember thinking what are the odds a war is going to break out in the next six years, and then six weeks later, 9-11 happened. All of a sudden it was a whole new ballgame."
After serving from August 2001 to March 2006, it is Shepard's experience that now has made the war the single most defining issue for him in the 2008 elections.
'Get out': A Marine's call
Ask Sol Black the most important issue the United States faces, he'll say "The war in Iraq." Ask him how the government should handle it and he'll say, "Get out, ASAP."
Black insists the outcome America desires in the Middle East no longer remains obtainable, an alarming assessment given the approximate $340 million Americans spend each day funding the conflict. With obvious frustration he explains the evolution of the American prerogative in Iraq and the challenges of facing an ambiguous enemy.
"First it was weapons of mass destruction, then liberating the Iraqi people, now it's fighting terrorism... what next, what justification is there at this point?"