Oral History 01.2015: A U.S. Veteran who served in Afghanistan

The interview took place on April 30, 2015, in Greensboro, NC.  The interview explored the experiences of a U.S. veteran who served in Afghanistan.  Both the Interviewer and the Veteran wished to remain anonymous.  OH 01.2015

Interviewer: Why did you join the service?

Interviewee- I just needed to grow up. I was 19 years old and going nowhere in life and it provided me with an option to do something with my life. I had just gotten kicked out of community college and needed a job.

Interviewer- Why did you pick the service branch you did?

Interviewee-My buddy talked me into it. We were really good friends in high school and when I told him i was going to join the service, he talked me into joining the army

Interviewer: Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)?

Interviewee-I served in the War on Terror in Afghanistan, where I served two tours.

Interviewer- Where exactly did you go?

Intervieweee-I was in Kandahar for both tours, but different villages throughout. The first tour I was in Takur Ghar where I only spent about 2 months. Then moved to the Arghandab River Valley for the remaining 11 months of my first tour. The second tour I was in Kotizi for 8 months.

Interviewer: Did you see combat?

Interviewee- Yes i did, I saw a lot of combat. My first deployment we were in fire fights almost every day. I was also wounded in battle.

Interviewer: Did you have plenty of supplies?

Interviewee- No.(Laughing), we had to ration a lot. You only get a handful of water bottles a day and 1 or 2 MREs(Meals Ready to Eat). The only thing we got supplied regularly was ammo and medical supplies.

Interviewer: Did you feel pressure or stress?

Interviewee- Yeah, I would have to say more so on my second deployment because I was in more of a leadership position, I was the head of my unit. I had people under me so i had to make sure they were taken care of at all times, which put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I wasn't only looking out for myself you know? I was looking out for 4-9 other guys and their lives were my responsibility.

Interviewer: Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.

Interviewee- Just hanging out with people and getting to know them. theres just a brotherhood there, I mean you're literally sleeping next to someone for months at a time so you really get to know everything about everyone. A lot of my good memories are just hanging out with my buddies and making fun of them(Laughing)

Interviewer: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual event?

Interviewee- We would make weird games out of things because you would just go stir crazy. For instance, a big one in the army is throwing rocks. You take a rock and see if we can throw it at an object from a distance. You also learn how to make things unconventionally. Every major operation we would have to make a sand table. Pretty much what that is, is making a small diagram of your objective in the upcoming mission. if I didn't have the materials to make it you, I would go out and find something to make it with.

Interviewer: Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Interviewee- Yeah. I was awarded three purple hearts, the global war on terrorism service medal, the army service ribbon, 2 Afghanistan campaign medals, National defense service medal, 2 Army achievement medals, 2 army commendation medals, the army presidential unit citation, the army meritorious unit award. I am also airborne qualified, as well as jump master qualified. I also have my chilean airborne wings.

Interviewer: How did you get them?

Interviewee- Some of them I received once I signed with the military. I got the purple hearts from being wounded in combat but I do not want to get into detail. I went to airborne school and jump master school to get those qualifications. I also got my chilean wings because I jumped with the chilean air force. I was with the chileans because the chilean military was sent up to Fort Bragg NC where I was stationed to receive airborne training. I was the jump master for one of their missions.

Interviewer: Did you work or go back to school?

Interviewee- I went back to school immediately. To be honest, I went back to school over finding work because I was given an opportunity to play college lacrosse, which was always a dream of mine. This heavily influenced my decision to go back to school.

Interviewer: Was your education supported by the G.I. Bill?

Interviewee- Yes my education is supported by the GI Bill. They pay for three years of school and also give an allowance to live off campus.

Interviewer: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Interviewee- Yes and no. I mean it did because it puts it more in perspective. Its not what you see in the movies or on TV. I mean you dont have the fame or glamour with you, you just have your buddies and the dirt. It didn't influence the way i thought about the military because I knew I was gonna learn discipline and how to be a better person in society and that it was not going to be easy, but the combat I saw was nothing like I had expected. Nothing goes the way you plan it and violence was a common occurrence. My perspective on war changed when I experienced war during the two tours I served. Before the military I didn't know why we were in Afghanistan and it frustrated me. I soon realized our main goal of being in Afghanistan was to help the Afghani people, but some of those people didn't want our help. Take the Argondab river valley for example, the Afghani people that lived in the villages didn't want our help or have anything to do with us because they were big supporters of the Taliban. Everywhere we went there were IEDs and some even attacked us which resulted in a number of casualties on both sides. My tour in Kotizi was much different that the first. The people in Kotzi not only wanted our help, but really needed it. Because of this, they were much more inviting and welcoming when we arrived. They also gave us information and helped us. It was a win-win situation in Kotzi, we helped them and they helped us.

Interviewer: Thank you for your time

Interviewee: You're Welcome