July 1, 2008 – Views of the 2008 presidential campaign from two recent Army veterans and an injured Marine:
Brandon Ziegler, of Bethel, Pa., did two short tours in Iraq with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He joined the military two weeks before the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, to get money for college. Ziegler, a Republican who voted absentee for President Bush in 2004, gives three reasons for supporting John McCain: “One is that he is a war veteran just like myself. The second is that our nation is at war so I believe that gives him an insight into what is going on. The third is his character. McCain was a POW and could have been released early but he chose to wait his turn and let others go home before himself.” Ziegler, now studying at Kutztown University to be a history teacher, says some people look at Iraq and think that “if we don’t get out right away, that’s the wrong call. I don’t know what the right call is, but I don’t think leaving right away is either.”
James Morin, of Arlington, Va., spent eight months in Afghanistan as an Army infantry platoon leader. He’d just gotten home and been promised a year here when his unit got word it would be leaving for Iraq in two weeks. Morin, a father of four at age 29, says one of his buddies was killed in Iraq a month ago. “He had four kids like me,” Morin says. Asked how many people he’s known who were killed, Morin said: “I never actually sat there and tallied it, but it would be in the double digits.” Morin, a graduate of West Point, left the military last summer and is finishing a law degree from Georgetown University. He said he was raised in a Democratic household and that his political leanings were reinforced by his experiences in the military. “I think Obama is strongest in his understanding of how comprehensive all these problems are,” Morin said, adding that the Bush administration hasn’t done enough to provide Afghans with a positive alternative to the Taliban. “Obama understands that winning the war on terrorism also involves winning a war on poverty and ignorance.”
From where Marine Cpl. Brett Sobaski, 20, of Iowa City, Iowa, sits, the political landscape is a personal one. He speaks slowly about the importance of paying attention to what’s going on in the world, and what responsibilities he has as a Marine _ and an American. Sobaski, who faces medical retirement at the end of the month, was wounded in 2004 during some of the heaviest fighting in the Iraq war, and surgery left him partially blind. Like most Marines, Sobaski holds close his personal opinion on the candidates. “It’s different in the military. You have certain responsibilities regardless of your personal feelings. Those responsibilities come before your personal feelings first and foremost,” he said. Sobaski, who currently lives in San Diego, hints at his position, saying that he, like most of his buddies, signed up for the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started. “I guess actions speak louder than words,” he says. Sobaski says he’s looking at this Independence Day a little differently from previous years. Maybe it’s the wound. Maybe it’s the war. “It tugs at the heartstrings a little more,” he said.