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View from the Hill Blog: Generation Y on the End of the Iraqi War

By Grace Boatright, View from the Hill National Grange Legislative Blog (12/19/11)

  DECEMBER 21, 2011 --

Thursday, 12/15/11 marked the end of the War in Iraq. It “officially” lasted 8 years, 270 days, claimed the lives of 4,483 American soldiers, and cost an estimated $800 billion. It began with an approval rating of over 60% (USA Today), and ended with an approval rating of around 29% (Polling Report.com). In other words, it was controversial.

Many people would like to argue that the War in Iraq (or the Iraqi War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, or whatever you want to call it) was unrelated to the events surrounding 9/11. Vengeance and hate are attributes unbecoming to our American persona, but to me the War in Iraq had everything to do with 9/11. Terrorism, red alerts, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda, and jihadist weren’t staples of our vocabulary before September 11, 2001. Following the 9/11 attacks these concepts became common lingo, and the Iraqi War was meant to put an end to these things that defined American fear at the dawn of the new millennium.

I chose the end of the war as the topic for my blog this week because unlike most of you who are reading it, I hardly remember when there wasn’t a war in Iraq. I was 12-years-old when 9/11 happened. I was wearing denim cut off shorts, Nike tennis shoes, and a white Old Navy t-shirt that day. My 7th grade class was in the middle of our bi-weekly Catechism lesson, taught by the presiding pastor of my small Lutheran school. The first class of every day was either Bible study or Catechism, and that Tuesday was no different…or at least it didn’t seem different.  Around 8:30 or so, our principle came into our classroom to tell us that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York. We were 12-years-old and at the time most of us could hardly point out New York on a map, let alone Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other locations that would soon become permanent lessons of our childhood. The Pastor immediately turned on the television, just in time for all 16 of us to watch the second plane hit the other Tower. We didn’t leave the classroom or hold any other classes that day. We just watched in horror as the news anchors repeated what little information they knew at the time.

I laid in bed that night confused and scared, assuming World War III had just begun and that our lives would never be the same. I was right about the latter. Unlike many kids the following Wednesday, I went to school. My usually over-protective father insisted on it. He told me I had to go to school because if I didn’t, the terrorists will have won. We were going to carry on with our lives no matter what.

September 12, 2001 marked the beginning of something new as well. Immediately the following morning, there were American flags everywhere. Kids at school passed out patriotic bookmarks, cookies, and flag lapel pins. Everywhere and everything was coated in red, white and blue. People were tame and friendly, almost like they’d awoken out of some coma. For a change, my innocence and fright wasn’t a result of my age, because everybody seemed that way. Nobody knew what to think. Overnight, metal detectors popped up everywhere, ammunition flew off of shelves, passport lines grew longer, security grew tighter, and our nation would never again exist in the casual, worry-free atmosphere it had enjoyed prior to that.

As controversial as the Iraqi War came to be, and whether you agree or disagree with whether or not 9/11 was a major cause for the war, you can’t deny the positive effects it has had on America. Operation Iraqi Freedom created a surge in American patriotism, a newfound love and respect for our men and women in uniform, the takedown of Saddam Hussein, and HOPEFULLY the beginning of democracy in the Middle East. It will forever be debated whether those things were worth the cost and effort of the war.

Truly, nobody was more affected by the war than our military personnel and their families. They dodged bullets and IEDs in triple digit heat, with a hundred pounds of equipment strapped to their backs, thousands of miles away from home because to them, avenging those killed in terrorist attacks across the globe and ending this era of fear was worth the effort.

Many of my school mates were among those who joined the military to fight in the Iraqi War. They were pumped and anxious, high on patriotism as they signed up to dismantle that which we came to hate in the aftermath of 9/11. They didn’t come back so pumped and excited. My dad talks about growing up in the Vietnam era of hate and segregation, and my generation will one day discuss growing up in our current atmosphere of paranoia and distrust generated by terrorism…or at least I hope by then it is a thing of the past.  

The end of the War in Iraq marks the end of an era that began over ten years ago. Almost 4,500 solders died in Iraq, and over 33,000 were wounded. Their lives and the lives of their family and friends will never be the same. Our men and women in uniform will be able to spend Christmas with their families this year. We should all be happy about that. No doubt, many in Washington will manipulate the end of the war for political gain and leverage. That doesn’t really matter to me now. What should be paramount now is that we reflect on this conflict and hopefully learn something, because the wisdom achieved through so much sacrifice over a decade of war, would be wasted if we allow it to die with its victims.  So this year, turn on your Christmas lights, Fly your American flags, thank a serviceman or military family and feel blessed that terrorism has no resting place here. 

Merry Christmas everybody. 

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Programs Assistant 

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