Apr 222004
Authors: Erin Skarda

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

his eyes.

“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.”

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