It brings me great sadness and disappointment to write this letter on a day that is intended to be a day of pride and honor. On the day after the 233rd birthdays of the Army and Marine Corps, Veteran’s Day and the two-year anniversary of burying a fallen brother in arms; I read the article written by Jeremy Joiner, “UTSA Student’s Firsthand Account of the Iraq War.” I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech and I feel honored to have defended these rights. I also believe that it is our responsibility as the largest university in San Antonio to be respectful of our city’s dedication to the armed services. San Antonio is the home to one of the largest bodies of military personnel in this part of the U.S., as well as the home of Brooks Army Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid. We are the home to more amputees and burn victims injured in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other city in the nation. For these reasons, it is up to us, as a city, as a university and as Americans to represent our veterans appropriately and honorably.
I have been a member of 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, an elite Marine Special Operations unit, in this city for five years. Unlike Sgt. Orange’s job of “entering locational data into the correct grids on a computer,” I served in Iraq for seven months with a Force Recon unit (Marine Special Forces) in the Al Anbar Province as a point man and designated marksman. Combat was a normal everyday occurrence. I have witnessed, firsthand, the many sacrifices made by the Iraqi people, and these people are just like us: they want a chance to live in a free world, to be free from tyranny, free from terrorism, free to prosper, free to raise their children and to be able to pass on a future. These are values worth upholding and sacrificing for, and it has been a great honor for me to be a part of it. During my tour, I also saw many American men sacrifice their lives for the Iraqi people-they died promoting freedom, and they died giving hope. My fellow brothers-in-arms died for a purpose and for something they did believe in.
Sgt. Orange, in every way, has his right to voice his own opinion about not believing in what he was fighting for when he states he certainly did not agree with the military occupying Iraq – “A lot of the soldiers don’t really know what they are fighting for. Young soldiers lose their lives; it is something I don’t think we should be involved in,” but in no way does he deserve or have the right to voice an opinion for someone who sacrificed their life in service of this country. When Sgt. Orange decides to speak for fallen service members by saying, “the worst part about being in Iraq was the dying. Dying for something you don’t believe in,” he disrespects the service and sacrifice of the men who died promoting freedom. How dare Sgt. Brandon Dejon Orange speak for these men’s sacrifice in a negative way. In what way does he have or deserve the right to speak for these great American heroes?
Furthermore, I find it interesting how this article takes full advantage of using the title of “disabled veteran” throughout the entire article, but when read carefully one will find that “approximately a year after being in Iraq, Orange ruptured a disk in his back while heaving a massive generator on top of a tank.” In no way am I attempting to downplay or discredit Orange’s injury, but I do wish to shed light on the fact that the injury did not take place in combat.
During the engagement that I was later decorated for, several men received purple hearts and were also decorated with Bronze Stars, Navy and Marine Commendation Medals, and Navy and Marine Accommodation Medals, all with the combat distinguished device “V” for valor. Other than the men who died that night, every single one of these wounded men are continuing their service in the military after healing from their injuries. These men are the caliber of people that should be written about on Veteran’s Day. These are the stories that our country needs to hear at this time in our history, and these are the men who should be recognized for their selfless sacrifice to this great country.
My wish is that this letter could act as a voice to the other more positive, prideful side of serving one’s country, as well as a reminder for readers that Veteran’s Day is a day to appreciate veterans of all wars.
Cpl. Travis Cox