UT veterans reflect on duty on 10th anniversary of Iraq invasion

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Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the initial invasion of Iraq and the start of the Iraq War. 

Student veteran coordinator Ben Armstrong said while the day offers an opportunity for remembrance and recognition for US citizens, veterans’ experiences remain personal. 

“It’s not as easy as saying this is a day where we can sit around and talk about it,” Armstrong said. “We’re still too close to this war to romanticize it or simplify it. It’s messy. It’s war.”

Armstrong is the coordinator of the Student Veteran Services Center, which opened in November 2011 to assist with the transition for veterans from active duty into student life. Armstrong served as a corporal in the Marine Corps for five years. He said the center gives veterans support when returning to civilian life. 

“Seven hundred some people scattered across this campus had to go out into a different culture — put there by people who make decisions — and did the best they could to adapt and overcome in their specific situation,” Armstrong said.

Philosophy senior Gary Romriell, a student veteran who was medically discharged, said prior to his deployment in 2004 as an infantry soldier, he did not fully understand the combat experience.

“I was going to become special forces and all that,” Romriell said. “Then I went to Iraq and I decided ‘No, I’m going to college.’”

Romriell said the media tends to emphasize anniversary days as an opportunity for political promotion or monetary gain.

“We remember the experiences and maintain our own pride internally,” Romriell said. “I learned to appreciate that no matter what our political perspective, every war is both horrible and a possible force for change — for good.”

Armstrong said that each soldier has their own ghosts, skeletons and memories.

“With or without this day set aside for acknowledgement, the different experiences of the veterans will always be with them,” Armstrong said.

Biology senior Amy Prichard, a Student Veteran Services Center management team member, said Army medicine made history by leaving a fully functional hospital with the government of Iraq during her service as a captain in the Medical Service Corps

“It obviously makes me sad to point out the futility in all of it, but my individual opinion doesn’t matter,” Prichard said. “Geopolitically what was happening was what was happening. Regardless of whether or not I agree or disagree I feel good about what I did, and I feel good about what my hospital did, and the people we took care of. That’s what I have to keep.”