February 12, 2008 – In the middle of a quiet student lounge at UNC Asheville last week, a group of women sat chatting quietly. Suddenly, a group of soldiers burst into the room, pulling the women out of their chairs and demanding they get down on the floor.
The room was in chaos as the soldiers took the three women to one end of the lounge, barking questions at them and cursing.
The soldiers put hoods over the women’s heads, zip-tied their hands behind their backs and pushed them out the door as they protested that they didn’t have any information.
As the scene quieted down, one of the soldiers came back into the room and stood near where two members of the U.S. Marine Corps had set up a recruiting table.
“My name is Jason Hurd, and I’m with Iraq Veterans Against the War,” he said.
The women were part of the demonstration, which Hurd said was a way to explain that American soldiers are called to interrogate civilians this way, and anyone who enlists and is sent to Iraq likely will have to interrogate people the same way.
Hurd is passionate about telling people what life really is like in Iraq since the American invasion in 2003. He spent a year there with the Tennessee Army National Guard and now works to educate people by telling his story.
He and three other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War from Western North Carolina are planning to attend Winter Soldier, an event in Washington March 13-16, where Iraq veterans will tell their stories. It is named for an event staged by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971.
The local chapter of IVAW will hold a dance Thursday evening to raise money to attend the gathering, where each veteran will tell his or her story. Iraq Veterans Against the War expects several hundreds veterans from around the country to attend.
For some veterans, telling the story dredges up the pain of their experiences. Others find talking about it helps them.
Steve Casey, who was in Iraq for 15 months in 2003 and 2004, has trouble talking about what he saw and experienced there. He has nightmares every night and he has divorced since he came back because he was not the same person who went to war.
“I watched our guys shoot at innocent people and then brag about it,” Hurd said. “If people knew what war is really like, they would demand we get out of Iraq immediately.”
Mike Robinson, another of the demonstrators, said he came home injured and unable to cope with life. With severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, he couldn’t hold a job and wound up living on the street for a time. He credits his 3-year-old daughter, Sara, for giving him the ability to get up every morning and helping him to return to some semblance of normalcy.
“I was lucky. I got wounded,” Robinson said. “I see people going back three and four times. What kind of life is that? What kind of marriage can you have?”