Part Two of this Series
Christopher Gallagher grew up on Long Island (NY) and now lives in Las Vegas where he is president of the local chapter of IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). He has been out of the Marines since September, 2005. In the meantime, he attended three semesters of college, maintaining a 3.5 GPA towards a business degree, and is currently an electrical union apprentice. Gallagher was part of a contingent of eleven vets that descended upon Capitol Hill this week to share their take on what is going on in Afghanistan. Their numbers included two women, and represented the Army, Marines, and National Guard. Coming together from California, Florida, Nevada, and Indiana, they fanned out to meet with Congressional staffers. Gallagher told me, “Unfortunately, I did not get the responses that I had hoped for. For many offices, it was business as usual.”
Welcome to OpEdNews, Christopher. Perhaps you can start by telling us about your military service.
I was a Corporal in the Marines and served three tours in Iraq totaling 16 months. September 4th, 2001, was my first day in boot camp. This set the tone for the next four years of my life. The mission was to defeat terrorism around the world. My job was a radio operator, setting up and providing communication.
I participated in the invasion of Iraq in early 2003. My unit took part in taking down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. My second tour was 2004. I was stationed in Haditha working at a dam.
On my third and final tour in Iraq, in 2005, I was the radio operator for
an 81mm. mortar platoon. Our mission was to run a checkpoint outside
the city of Fallujah.
This was my turning point when I started questioning the war. Weapons company patrols - searching for roadside bombs and insurgents in Iraq - consisted of driving around and waiting to be blown up. The Iraqis were herded like cattle through the checkpoint.
What was it that made you question our motives for being over there?
I started to realize things were wrong when I passed intelligence reports to the battalion and what they sent to higher was completely different than what I sent them. When I asked our intel people why they misreported the facts, they told me it did not matter. That is when I started questioning the war and what our mission was accomplishing.
What did your fellow soldiers think of your change of heart?
90% of my fellow Marines I served with are supportive. The negative Marines were too brainwashed to discuss it with. Two different Marines I served with stated that I did not deserve to wear the uniform. One Marine called me a traitor. I told them that what I was doing was honoring the memory of the marines who were no longer with us. We are not dealing with war but an occupation of a sovereign country. War can be a necessary evil, however I believe that occupation is a crime.
That 90% support level is not what I would have expected. When you say your fellow Marines, are you referring to fellow veterans or those you were serving with while on active duty?
I was not against the war fully until a year after I was out of the Marines. The VA was cutting the benefits and misdiagnosing ptsd [post traumatic stress disorder] as adjustment disorder or personality disorder, so it angered me. IVAW supports full funding of the VA and I joined IVAW because of their commitment to vets’ issues and ending the war in Iraq.
What does your family think of your about-face?
They’re supportive but worried for my safety and fear that speaking out against the war might hurt my political aspirations. My uncle is a retired army colonel who worked at the Pentagon and he supports me and what I do with IVAW.
What political aspirations?
In the distant future, I would like to run for public office.
So, your experiences in Iraq haven't made a cynic of you?
i am not cynical of the process. We have accomplished a lot. The Congress is more aware of the McGovern bill that states we need an exit strategy.
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