U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Alejandro Sierras
When I was a young Marine on my first tour in Iraq’s Anbar province, I met then-Lance Cpl. Gabby Altamira. Not only were we both boots, we were also augmented from a different unit, so naturally we were the first ones to be "voluntold" to go on security duty when the time came. I spent a few weeks guarding an empty desert in western Iraq for a few weeks, and Altamira ended up doing something far more impactful.
I remember reading George C. Herring’s book “America’s Longest War” when I was studying history as an undergrad and couldn’t wrap my head around how the conflict in Vietnam could have gone on as long as it did. I naively assured myself that despite how horrific the toll of that war was, at least we had learned from our mistakes and would never let that happen again. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This past January, the Department of Veteran Affairs released a 44-page report, titled “Veteran Appeals Experience: Listening to the Voices of Veterans and Their Journey in the Appeals System,” which sought out to do just that: Listen to the veterans who are currently in or have gone through the appeals process with the hopes of discovering the best way to overhaul the system. The report drew from the accounts of 92 veterans in 21 states, from World War II to today’s ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the hopes of addressing the current problems with the process and creating solutions to fix them. I had the opportunity to be one of those 92 veterans.
On March 8, 1965, the United States sent its first combat troops into Vietnam to thwart the expansionist threat of communism in Indochina during the height of the Cold War. The end result of this decision would be a long, divisive political battle in our country over the use of our military abroad and the deaths of over 58,000 Americans overseas.