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Listen: Texas Veterans on ISIS and the Future of Iraq

U.S. Army,
Members of the 1st Air Cavalry on patrol near Taji, Iraq.

Last week, the Obama administration announced their response to the unraveling situation in Iraq. The U.S. is sending 300 military advisors to help government forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The Al-Qaeda augmented militants have recently taken control of much of northern Iraq. 

The White House has not ruled out air strikes, and the possibility of further military action is the talk of Washington. But what about the men and women who served in Iraq? The Texas Standard's David Brown recently sat down with three veterans for a roundtable discussion of recent events.

"It's a complicated reaction," says Brian Van Reet, who served Iraq from 2004-2005 with the 1st Cavalry Division as a tank crewman. "I guess the overwhelming emotion is dismay and disappointment and sorrow for the Iraqi people. Some mixture of those three things."

When asked if the war in Iraq was a success, or a failure, Van Reet was more subjective. "I couldn't look someone in the eye who lost a husband or wife, and say they died for nothing – because they might have died protecting someone they cared about. There may have been some small victory in their sacrifice."

When asked to look back on his past experiences and evaluate President Obama's plan to send advisory forces to Iraq, retired Sergeant Perry Jeffries says Americans need to reevaluate the cost of war. "Does America want to put another trillion dollars into that [the Iraq War], do we want to put another 6,000 lives into that? That's what we've done so far, and look what we've gotten, after ten years."

All the veterans agreed that an important piece in moving forward is ensuring that policy makers listen to the veterans who served in Iraq. "I think in asking that question –  what to do next with the situation in Iraq, it is extremely important to speak to the men and women that carried out that war, that walked the deserts in Iraq, and had that experience for all of those years," says  Branigan Mulcahy, an infantry officer with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. 

Listen to the entire discussion in the player above. 

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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