Nov 8th, 2017, 03:36 AM

Veterans of AUP

By Fernanda Sapiña Pérez
Image Credit: Unsplash/Spencer Imbrock
An ode to those who have served.

Men and women risk their lives every day in order to protect their country and maintain peace. Here at AUP, we have a few stories from people who have contributed some of their time to the US military. In honour of the recently passed Veteran's Day and upcoming Thanksgiving, this article is a thank you note and an ode to the members of our AUP community who served. 

Heather Linebaugh is a communication major at AUP. She recounted her experience in the military as an intelligence analyst, "I served four and a half years. I finished my enlistment early because my mom had terminal cancer and I had to go take care of her," she said. "I specialized in intelligence collection, targeting, recon, bombing and battle damage assessment with drones that were armed with guided missiles. We called it battle damage assessment, 'counting the pieces' because it’s literally counting body parts after we bomb them." 

She's unable to talk about a lot of the experiences that she had, due to the constraints of confidentiality. "Because of the confidentiality of my job, I can’t recount most of them. I’d say that training was really interesting and worth sharing because I was treated very rough in my first months of the military because I was 'too fragile and pretty for the Air Force.' I passed all my training, physical and mental, with flying colours. I was quite proud of that."

Heather's time in the Army was not always easy.  She describes her emotions in the field as, "Horrified, loss of faith in humanity, disgusted and lost. I worked in a very controversial job that resulted in casualties on the other side nearly every day so, there was no glory in my job. It was a very traumatic experience, and I think it was much different experience than other people will experience in the war." Looking back, Heather was able to find some positives, "It was horrible in a lot of ways, but it has made me a very strong person, and I am thankful to have learned the power of my own perseverance."

Image Credit: Heather Lea Linebaugh

Heather reflected on the impact of her time in the Army, weighing in the positives and negatives.

"It has had both a positive and negative impact. I can’t say fighting in a war was positive at the time and losing friends is pretty horrible, but the strength and integrity I gained from it are what is positive."

John Kelley, an Army lawyer, and an International Relations Masters student at AUP shared his experience serving the Afghan and Iraqi community and the Veteran community back home. "When I joined the military, it was the first Iraq war. That war ended (and) I spent 10 years doing the basic reserve stuff as well as legal stuff. In 2004, I went to Iraq I was the army liaison to the regime crimes office, responsible for putting together the crimes against Sadam, for the crimes he committed against the Kurds." He spent most of his time as an army liaison, working with other government agency liaisons from the Navy, Marines, the Assistant District Attorneys, the DEA, Marshalls and a few FBI agents. Kelley dedicated a lot of his time to the army; a week after his marriage he was back at work in Albania.

Image Credit: John Kelley

At the time, Kelley was a Major but now holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He began running the ICCI (International Criminal Court of Iraq), helping prosecute Sadam Husein, "I ran the office for ICCI and we were responsible for providing witnesses to the Iraqi government to prosecute foreigner attackers arrested by US forces. We provided basically video conferencing for the Judges with our soldiers all around the world. They testified in front of the Iraqi court without leaving wherever they were. After I was done with that, I became head of the legal services Walter Reed Army Medical Center."

Kelley had a never-ending dedication, he spent time in Afghanistan working with the soldiers and the community, "There’s history that’s important. I went to Afghanistan and I was the liaison to the 07 Corp National Afghan Army. My job was to teach them the rule of law and be legal and respect all legal matters." he said. Kelley still reflect back upon his time there, and the people that left a mark on him, "So, I trained them and they were very professional people; I worry what life they have now. That’s something that I also find concerning cause when you care about people. You know, I don’t know what’s going to happen to them; their life hangs by a thread, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. They might not make it, whilst you can just hop on a plane and leave. The bottom line is, that I don’t know what is going to happen. They taught me more than I taught them, but there’s this survivors guilt. Their future disturbs me since I worked with them every day."

"What I’m proud of as a veteran, is that I always served soldiers. I never failed to serve them."

Kelley has also become a very vocal advocate for Veteran's post-war rights, "I always took care of them, and I’m proud of that, and I feel like that was important. You need to support your troops at the end of a war. Taking care of soldier’s needs is the best thing I ever did. And I did a good job for them, I can promise you that. For me, it was never about the enemy, it was about who were your friends, who were with you. These are people you can never forget. I never shot at anybody, I was an army lawyer. I really wanted to make the world a better place."

Apart from working as a lawyer, Kelley also became close to the community in Afghanistan; both of the inhabitants and of the other soldiers there. "I actually started a soccer tournament, with all the different countries that were with us in Afghanistan, and the Afghans won! For me, it was always about bringing people together, as weird as it may sound. I know it’s naïve, but that’s how I can look at it."

Kelley concludes that the positives outweigh the negatives; he spent a lot of time working incognito with a women's shelter in Afghanistan as well as child protection and involving himself deeply with the community and seeing things from another perspective, "It’s terrible to say that being two wars have had a positive impact, but I believe it has… it has made me more humane." That’s not normally what you think of coming out of a war. I never ever saw an enemy; I always saw another human being, I always saw them as human beings. When you sit down and break with them, literally, the Afghans particularly, took me to their homes with their family; how do you explain that? That is humanity, to me." Not only did he find humanity, he found inspiration, "I met these women in Afghanistan that stood up for their own rights that were so powerful and strong; they were standing up in a place that could get them killed, and they still stood up for female equality. How do you not respect that?"

Thank you to all the men and women who have served in the armed forces. On this Veteran's Day, we would like to honour and thank you for your sacrifice.