As we near the 10-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Yahoo News asked U.S. servicemen and women who served to share their perspectives and discuss how it changed them. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | For a lot of students, both in high school and college, the war in Iraq was confusing and questionable. Why were we there, what was the purpose? To this day, I still don't fully understand. I do know that many American men and women, some of them my friends, answered the call to duty and went to meet the enemy in guerrilla-style warfare. My father was one of those men.
My story actually begins in 2004. My sister and I had just started our weekend. I was in the 6th grade, she was in 2nd grade. My father waited until after dinner before he decided to give us the news that would ultimately change my family's life. He had decided not to wait until his current unit deployed to Iraq. Instead, he and another man, both generator mechanics, had volunteered to deploy with the E TAB of the 139th Field Artillery, Indiana Army National Guard.
My sister and I were both kids at the time, so obviously we didn't really know what he meant when he said he would be going away for a little while. To me, a little while meant he was going to AT at Camp Atterbury for two weeks and he would be back in no time. Now this is where it gets a little rusty for me; I can't remember what month my father left for pre-deployment, but I can tell you when we went to see him and where. He had gone to Ft. Sill, Okla., to train and prepare for his tour of duty in Iraq. We went there in January 2005 to tell him what I now realize could have been my last goodbye, my last "I love you, Dad."
While he was deployed, I had to take on responsibilities that most people my age didn't have a clue about. What made things even harder for all of us is when my father came home for his R&R. He had told us that part of his unit had taken small arms and RPG fire. We also had found out that he had gotten hurt shortly after arriving in Iraq while unloading radar parts with members of his unit. He was only supposed to spend two weeks of R&R, but by the time he was able to go back, it had been a month. He had no intention of leaving all those young guys there to do his job for him, so he fought his injuries and finished his tour.
It was when he came back that everything went downhill. After several surgeries, my dad now had two replaced hips, a replaced shoulder, and a tumor under his knee, which, luckily, was non-cancerous but still inoperable. My dad now jokes about it, calling himself the bionic man, with claims that he is getting younger with all the new parts they keep adding on. I'm glad my dad can joke about it now, but there's a part of me that wonders, after everything he has showed me and told me, if he's ever going to be 100 percent again.
My father's name is Michael Hicks. He retired as a specialist with 24 honorable years of service. Now he is full-time student studying network security.
My name is Michael Hicks. I'm 21 years old. I chose to take a different path in protecting my country, through the study of Homeland Security and Public Safety at Vincennes University. I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today if the circumstances had been any different.
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