Soldiers no longer occupy Iraq the way they did for nine years during a war that journalism professor Matthew LaPlante said most Americans don’t understand and many want to forget. A two-part panel discussion held Monday in the TSC Auditorium, “Out of Iraq,” targeted feelings of confusion and ambivalence that many USU students and Cache Valley community members may experience, LaPlante said. “Honestly, I wanted a good starter discussion about a war that I think a lot of people are very happy to forget, put aside and to say ‘That’s in the past,’” he said. “It’s not in the past. It stays with us, it continues with us — the legacy continues and it even grows. I wanted to foment that discussion on this campus.” Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the Iraq War and U.S. military presence in Iraq. Former and current USU students — who have each served at least one tour of duty in Iraq — along with Army ROTC recruiting officer Greg Stewart, met to form the first of two panels that would answer questions and discuss various viewpoints about the war. The audience comprised students, faculty and other community members, some of whom also served in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. LaPlante asked one audience member, sociology major and Iraq veteran Tara Earl, what she felt veterans need now that the war is over. “I think every veteran — coming home — needs help,” Earl said. “Because we get trained up, at minimum, three months on how to be a soldier, how to go over there and how to almost learn to hate their culture and … know that they’re an enemy. When you come home … they don’t train you how to be a civilian again.” Panel member Marshall Thompson, a USU alumnus, said when he returned home from Iraq family and friends threw a welcome-home party, and he didn’t know how to act — his mind couldn’t process a life outside of the war.
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