“Welcome home.” Many Americans in Tallahassee and across the United States are saying those words to loved ones who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and are back in the country.
Returning veterans are home after the long, nine-year campaigns. More than 40,000 soldiers are facing one of the hardest challenges of their lives: re-entering civilian life.
At Florida A&M, students listened to war stories from veterans who have served. Two veterans shared experiences serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the campus’ ROTC building.
Sgt. William Michael Stanton Jr. has been serving in the army for 21 years. He plans to finish his bachelor’s degree here at FAMU.
“I joined the army because I always had a passion to, especially since my father had retired from the military, said Stanton. “And seeing the advantages and disadvantages of being in the military made me want to even more.”
Master Sgt. Rod Graham has been serving in the military for 24 years. He is a senior of the Army ROTC at FAMU and a Military Science Instructor.
“It was hard, but very rewarding. The most rewarding thing I ever did in my life. More than five men put together couldn’t experience what I have,” said Graham. “My plans are to retire in two to three years, and get a bachelor’s degree and become an alumnus of FAMU. Then I plan to move back to North Carolina.”
Many young Veterans who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan choose to further their education after returning from deployment. Some endure a series of hardships, including suicide, domestic violence, divorce and trying to find employment.
Tallahassee native Michelle Mason’s brother just came back from the Iraq war.
“My brother always tells me that he would never regret being in the army and that was an experience he will always be glad to share with others,” said Mason. “I am so happy that he is home, I missed him so much, and don’t have to worry anymore about his safety and well-being, being over in Iraq.
“I was praying in hopes that it was not him who was killed, every time the news would announce a soldier was killed. Now that he is home, I will cherish his presence.”
Although troops have withdrawn from Iraq, they still carry out their duties of being an American soldier and serving our country.