Arizona veterans reflect on 17 years of war in Afghanistan, Iraq

Posted at 5:46 PM, Oct 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-08 21:27:49-04

Over the weekend, the longest war in American history passed another anniversary.

Nearly two decades after the September 11th attacks, the War on Terror in the Middle East is in its 17th year, with what seems like no end in sight.

Many to this day still wonder the exact reason America stepped foot in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans from those wars say they were sent to defend the nation and avenge the lives lost in the terrorist attacks, but as it drags on they question the motive for it to continue for so long.  

“Maybe they have another motive what they have going on besides what they’re actually letting us know, I have no idea,” speculated veteran Gerald McLeve.

McLeve joined the armed forces in 1981 and served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He got out 8 years ago. After 34 years of service, he has no regrets of the job he was sent to do or the work he and his fellow servicemembers did.  

Unfortunately, he believes, Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t stable enough to survive on their own even after all the years, lives and money spent rebuilding the country and training new armies.

“We do everything we can to try to help them,” added McLeve.

Corey Raiche also says despite his efforts in Iraq and the many victories they saw, it feels to him like this is a war America may never be able to escape.

“ISIS and the Taliban and things like that. It’s never gonna fully stop because they’re gonna keep on coming back,” he added.

After his service ended he was assigned to help close down bases. He says as soon as they would leave, the enemy would return and try to gain control.  For Raiche, the reason the U.S. is still in the Middle East is to show America doesn’t give up.

“I think it comes down to the U.S. trying to show that it’s still a dominant power,” he said.

Raiche, who enlisted in 2004, three years after the terrorist attacks in New York and D.C.  He was in high school in Connecticut when the attacks happened and says he was only 45 minutes away from the scene--close enough to see the smoke from the World Trade Center on the horizon. 9/11 was one of the reasons he enlisted.  

All these years later he says, the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan have grown just as tired of the war as people at home. He adds, even though the support for the troops is still there, he worries if the war carries on with no clear end in sight, public support may waver; he’s afraid the military will be blamed like how it was during the Vietnam War.  

Both veterans say, even as this campaign continues through the Trump administration, they don’t regret their service or the work they did to serve their country. 

“We did do a very good job over there,” said McLeve.  

“In my opinion, it was well worth me joining,” added Raiche.