Area veterans give thoughts about prospect of war in Iraq

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2003

They understand the thoughts that must be going through the minds of American service men and women as the prospect of war looms ever closer. After all, they too, have walked a mile in those shoes.

Members of Lawrence County veterans organizations, and former military men say they back the troops that are poised to fight and oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein. And they wish them a safe trip home after they win the battle that almost seems inevitably ahead of them.

"I think we're doing the right thing. We should have gone in there a long time ago," VFW Post 6878 Commander Dean Cooper said. "We should have gone in there and just forgotten the U.N."

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His sentiments are echoed by John Leach and Michael Misner, two members of the Ironton Fire Department. Misner and Leach have good reason to watch closely the news coming out of the Persian Gulf: they both fought in Operation Desert Storm.

"We were over there, and we should have done it the first time," Misner said. "We should have taken him out then. If we do nothing, who knows what he'll do? I would rather we go over there and get it done." Misner was stationed in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. He spent five months as a specialist with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

"We took the right path by trying diplomacy and trying to work with other nations," Leach agreed. "But I'm anxious for it to get started." Leach was a U.S. Marine initially stationed in Turkey during Operation Desert Storm. As the war progressed, Leach's Scout Sniper Platoon drove into northern Iraq to protect the ethnic Kurds from Saddam Hussein's heavy hand.

Both Misner and Leach came into contact with Iraqi soldiers during their tour of duty. Some were angry with U.S Armed Forces; others were curious about the country.

"They wanted to know what it was like in the U.S. and they wanted to tell us how bad it was for them there," Leach said.

Both Leach and Misner said that if they could tell the Iraqi people anything, it would be that the American Forces are not aggressors. Rather, they are there to help the Iraqi people get rid of a leader who is by many accounts a madman.

"We're there to help these people get him out of power so they can have a normal life," Misner said.

"He is an insane person that should have been dealt with years ago," Leach said. "He's (Saddam Hussein) basically another Hitler."

And what of the Americans who have offered themselves as human shields in Iraq? Ronald McFann, Commander of the Lawrence County Chapter 765 Military Order of the Purple Hearts, said he is dismayed that some would go so far to protest their own country.

"If they go and protest, they ought to leave them there when we bomb them," McFann said. "They're sorry individuals. I don't go for that protesting."

McFann, a Vietnam veteran, remembers the protests of the war in which he fought. But he said he thinks this time, most Americans will rally around the troops as they did during Operation Desert Storm.

"If they don't, they're sick," McFann said.

As for advice for the men and women who will fight the war for the United States, McFann was quick to answer. "Keep your head down, and give them all you've got. God Bless America and God Bless Our Troops."