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Young Veterans

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on November 09, 2010 with No Comments

by Carl Kurek

Most people have certain images that come to mind when they think of all the different holidays we celebrate throughout the year.

Halloween: Pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and trick or treaters.

Thanksgiving: Turkey, pumpkin pie and family dinners.

Christmas: Christmas trees surrounded by gifts, snow and good ol’ Santa Claus.

But what comes to mind when the holiday is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is a day set aside every year to honor military veterans, both past and present, who voluntarily risk their lives to serve and protect the citizens of this nation. With America still fighting two wars, many people know someone who has served on at least one of the battlefields.

According to a 2008 study, the average age of military personnel in active duty was 28. And more than half of these soldiers were between the ages of 22 and 30. Oftentimes, these soldiers are overlooked as veterans, but they fit the description quite well.

One of those young veterans is 23-year-old Pete Craig of Chesterton, who recently returned home after serving nearly a year in Iraq.

Craig was stationed in South Korea and Texas prior to being sent to Iraq. He said he was not really surprised when he learned he was being sent into a war zone.

“I thought, Now I can use what I have been taught,í and I was kind of excited,” Craig said. “I could hardly sleep once we landed in Kuwait.”

Craig said he originally joined the military to better himself and also to access the GI Bill. Now that he has completed his service, Craig plans to get a job and attend college.

This is when the young veteran feels his time in the Army will come into play.

ìIn some ways, returning to civilian life might be harder,” Craig admitted. ìBut it is also easier because the military prepares you with the tools you need in order to prevail. Itís just up to you to use them to your advantage.”

Another one of these young veterans is Cpl. Eric Garner of Hobart, a Marine who returned in July after serving on three tours of duty.

Garner served in Iraq from August 2007 until March 2008, and then returned to Iraq in February 2009 until July of the same year. Only two months after returning from his second tour of duty, Garner volunteered to return with his unit to Afghanistan, where he would serve from October 2009 through May 2010.

ìMost people think itís horrible and it is in a lot of ways,” Garner said. ìBut it enlightens you, too; it shows you what the world is really like.”

Garner, who turns 23 this month, said that every one of the Marines who decided to return to action knew the risk. To them, there were people that needed help and their job as Marines was to help those who needed it.

ìItís all about helping people,” Garner explained. ìPeople say ëYouíre just killing people,í but weíre not. Weíre fighting for the people who canít fight for themselves. They had an enemy, who in turn became our enemy; they needed us to fight.”

For Garner and his fellow Marines, being a Marine was a job and a lifestyle. He said that although many people are quick to judge those who serve, saying that they are ìbrainwashed” and ìcrazy,” service men and women, especially those who have been in combat zones, donít just forget.

Garner said what is accepted, and expected, on a Marine base would definitely not be accepted in a normal setting at home. Garner said for this reason, soldiers have to get used to dealing with people and society again, but at the same time, people and society have to get used to returning soldiers as well.

ìYouíre just different,” Garner said, adding that different is not synonymous with bad. ìIt doesnít just go away, but itís all about how you handle it and what you make of it.”

Just as Craig plans to, Garner chose to fill the gap once filled by military service with school. The work ethic he gained from the Marines will now carry over into his student life.

Both Garner and Craig are done with the service time they signed up for. They will now become college students beginning to pursue a degree, even while many people their same age are completing their college life at the same time. They will have jobs and begin to blend in with the other faces that fill our society.

It is important to not forget the service and sacrifice these young soldiers have made for us. As Garner said, they fight because there are others who cannot fight. This Veterans Day, remember that these young men and women coming home from todayís wars are in fact, young veterans.

For more information on how you can give back to the men and women coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, visit www.iava.org.

CUTLINES:

Pete 1 , Pete Craig, 23, recently returned state-side after serving nearly a year in Iraq. Like many returning veterans, Craig will now find a job and attend college, but says the tools he has gained from his time in the military will help him succeed.

Pete 2 , Earlier this year, Pete Craig, 23, came home on a two-week leave from Iraq. His wife Chantel and family organized a welcome home parade with the local American Legion and the Patriot Guard Riders.

Eric 1 (I donít know if you can crop this so itís just him or not, heís the guy all the way on the left, if you do the caption will change slightly) , Eric Garner, 22, is pictured on the far left in full gear with three of his fellow Marines while deployed in Afghanistan. Garner served two tours of duty in prior to volunteering to go Afghanistan with men from his unit.

Eric 2 (Same as first photo about cropping, heís guy on bottom row all the way on left) , Eric Garner of Hobart will turn 23 his month, but has already served two tours of duty in Iraq, after which he volunteered to go to Afghanistan. He said that being a Marine was a job and a lifestyle, but it is all about helping people.

Eric 3 (I donít even know if you can work with this or not because itís so small but he doesnít have many pictures) , Caption same as Eric 2

Eric 4 , Caption same as Eric 2

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