It was March 19, 2003. While most CSU students were in class, on
campus or hanging out with friends, overseas the first missiles
were ready to be fired at Iraq.
As the 4 a.m. deadline (Iraqi time) President Bush set for
Saddam Hussein to leave the country drew nearer, more than 300,000
American and British soldiers moved through the Kuwaiti desert to
southern Iraq, ready to strike.
Air raid sirens sounded in Baghdad around 5:30 a.m. on March 20,
2003, marking the start of the War on Terror.
Luis Cruz, a sophomore finance major, remembers this day well.
While many students were watching these events unfold on
television, Cruz was stationed in Baghdad, seeing it happen before
“It was pretty much laid-back until the firing started,” Cruz
said. “The Iraqis were shooting missiles back at us and the alarms
went off. The pace changed from waiting to constant work. We had
missions we had to take care of.”
Cruz, who has been in the Marine Reserves for just more than two
years, was deployed to Kuwait in January 2003. He started out in
the north, about 30 or 40 minutes from the Iraq border.
When he first arrived, Cruz thought the American troops would be
unwelcome, but he found it was just a misconception.
“I went in thinking no one liked Americans. I thought we’d be
received bad,” he said. “But it’s a respective country. We got to
work directly with many people working on the military bases and
for the most part they didn’t mind us.”
Matt Griefe, a freshman with a double major in criminal justice
and international studies, has also experienced time overseas.
Griefe, who was a Marine for about three years until a knee
injury forced him to discharge, spent time in both Afghanistan and
As a Special Ops soldier for the Marine Recon, Griefe said when
he first arrived in Iraq, he concentrated on doing what he had to
do to stay alive.
“When I got there we were pretty gung-ho,” Griefe said. “Saddam
is a bad fella. I got to see the aftermath of some of the things he
had done and it made me more than happy to give payback.”
During his time in Iraq, Griefe befriended a Shiite Muslim named
Abdul. He said talking with him and his family showed him the
oppression they faced.
“They wanted to live their own life,” Griefe said. “Everything
they did was watched. They were happy we were setting them
While there was not much violent resistance from civilians,
Griefe said it was mostly minority groups committing terrorist
As the tensions overseas seem to be heightening, many Americans
worry about the troops still stationed overseas.
Carolyn Aspelin, a sophomore wildlife biology major, said she
receives letters from a Marine currently stationed in Fallujah,
where the fighting continues.
“He definitely knows the situation is getting worse and there’s
more danger, but he thinks they have it under control,” Aspelin
Griefe expressed his concerns about the overseas situation.
“I’ve honestly tried to stay neutral,” Griefe said, “but my
thoughts and concerns are for the soldiers. My priority lies with
them first. As far as politics, all I can do is trust and hope they
will follow through with the mission.”
Cruz said while the morale was good when he was there, he
assumes the soldiers now are having a harder time. He said the
danger is greater and there is more concern for the troops.
“We’ve got guys out there,” he said. “We’re very concerned
because we were in a controlled environment the first time, now
there’s no clear enemy. There are so many other factors. Now the
direction isn’t as clear as it was before.”
Aspelin said she believes it is important for the American
people to support the troops.
“I think the support from the American people is all the troops
have in Iraq,” she said. “They don’t have much motivation if it’s
not for us. We should try to put ourselves in their position, feel
what they feel and respect them for doing what they’re doing.”
Cruz said it is important to support U.S. troops overseas.
“Regardless of whether you support the war, definitely support
the troops,” he said. “They have to be out there. It’s hard to
focus when you see news reports or read letters from people who
don’t show support. Write letters, send packages, let them know
they’re not going to be hated on when they come back.”