Part three of this series
Devon Read was one of the eleven veterans who took to Capitol Hill last week to talk with members of Congress about the Afghanistan war supplemental.
I served in the US Marine Corps Infantry for eight years. I joined the reserves in January of 2001 after which I served three-four years of active service. I fought in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, served on a Quick Response Force in southern California, and provided security in the Horn of Africa.
Since leaving my Light Armored Recon unit, I've found myself much more open to the ideals of the anti-war movement. Realizing that my own conclusions about the war aligned with those of Iraq Veterans Against the War, I joined the organization in summer 2008.
I am against the proposed escalation in Afghanistan because I believe it is based on false assumptions. The counter-terrorism mission would be better served by an international police and diplomacy effort than by the heavy-handed tactics the US Military is trained in. I can say from personal experience that grunts are trained to fight a standing military force and our efforts have been counterproductive in the delicate situation on the ground.
You describe yourself as Sword for Hire? What does that mean?
I was sure it was some kind of military talk, but it's just a clever play on words. Oh, well. How did you go from military to the visual arts? Not an obvious move...
Surprisingly, it is somewhat common. I know of at least three other Marine grunts that have become artists since the war. For me, it was something I was interested in since before I joined, but for others it’s an outlet to express the torment inside.
Was it hard to find yourself in the antiwar camp psychologically after your time in the Marines?
It was hard to align with the anti-war camp while I was in the corps. I was exposed to plenty of anti-war ideas during my time but simply explained them away in my head; my ability to do my job and watch out for my fellow marines was predicated on doing so. As soon as I got out, I was able to reevaluate the same info and finally find myself agreeing with the anti-war movement.
How has your readjustment stateside been?
I never had too much difficulty readjusting to civilian life. The day I graduated boot camp, my buddies picked me up and brought me down to the beach, where I changed from my dress uniform into shorts and flip flops in no time, right there in the sand. I repeated this exact same ritual when I got home from Iraq and again when I got home from Africa. It was a symbolic way for me to transform back into my civilian self.
What has your family's reaction to your anti-war activities been?
Do you feel that the VA has looked after you?
I've never had too much interaction with the VA. Shortly before I got out the VA visited our unit to enroll people. During my enrollment I mentioned that I was having some dental problems at the time, caused by a cavity that was very badly filled when I got activated for Iraq. The VA rep essentially said that they don't really do much for dental health. Mainly because I was irritated by this answer, I simply chose to have nothing to do with the VA, until three months later, I got a bill from them for the time I spent with their rep enrolling me. This reinforced my intention to stay as far away from them as I could.