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Back from War (Multimedia)

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September 14, 2012
In a recent panel discussion, student veterans recounted their military experience and its effect on their lives and families. [b](WARNING: Story and video contain some mature subject matter.)[/b] "Tonight, five of us who served in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan, or both, are not going to discuss whether the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were morally right or even justifiable. We are simply going to tell you how we experienced war first-hand." That was the opening statement delivered by BSU senior [b]Carlos Ulloa[/b], a former sergeant in the Marine Corps who served in Iraq and acted as moderator for the panel, "After 9/11: student veterans recall what it was like to be in the war." The event was held in the Heritage Room of the Maxwell Library before a standing-room crowd on the 11th anniversary of September 11. The remembrance of war was summed up early in the discussion by [b]Adam McElroy[/b], a Navy veteran who served all over the Middle East, including Iraq. "Every day when I see the sunrise, or watch the sunset, or feel the wind blow, I'm reminded how fortunate I am to have survived, because I had buddies over there who will never have that chance again," he said. "It's very sobering for me. I take nothing for granted anymore." Joining Mr. McElroy and Mr. Ulloa on the panel were fellow BSU students and combat veterans [b]Julie Boucher[/b], who served in the Army in Iraq and Kuwait; [b]John Donahoe[/b], an Army paratrooper who served in Iraq; and [b]Justin Smith[/b], an Army warrant officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Asked how her experience in Iraq shaped her outlook, Ms. Boucher said, "I've decided I want to pursue a career where I can help military veterans transition to civilian life. I'm majoring in social work because I believe what I'm learning in this field will help me do that." Ms. Boucher also described candidly the special challenges women face in some front-line Army units. "There were only 10 women and about 150 men. It was sometimes frankly uncomfortable," she said. "The members of the team I was with, and with whom I worked most closely, were cool with me. They might have been the only guys I felt comfortable with." Mr. Smith described his several combat tours as a combination of "boredom, waiting for something to happen, and then absolute terror when the shooting starts." "But I wouldn't trade for the world what I went through over there," he added. Mr. Donahoe recalled a close call during his 2004 deployment, after his team had completed an exhausting 18-hour patrol. "We came back expecting to get a chance to rest and suddenly we were told we had to do another eight-hour patrol," he said. "But then soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division came up and said, We'll take your patrol for you.' They had to use our Humvee and we said 'no problem' to that. "Four hours later the patrol came back," he continued. "I was roused from my bed and told I had to go fix the Humvee. I couldn't imagine what had happened to the vehicle. But as soon as I saw the Humvee -- which had a 36-inch hole from the door through the roof -- I knew it had hit an IED [Improvised Explosive Device]. The body parts had been removed but the interior was covered in blood. Those guys had tried to do something nice for us. If it weren't for them, and their sacrifice, it would have been us." Mr. Donahoe and Mr. Smith continue to serve in Army Reserve units and participate in monthly drills and summer encampments. The event was co-sponsored by the BSU Veterans Organization in cooperation with the Catholic Connection, a BSU student group. (Story and photos by David K. Wilson, '71,University Advancement) VIDEO: The student veterans recount their experiences in the military. [b](WARNING: Video contains mature subject matter)[/b] [youtube]S17GC77gp18[/youtube]