Many students with relations in Iraq face the challenge of having limited contact with their loved ones and living in the Mills community where many hold strong views against the war.
Beka Clark, a freshwoman with a cousin in the Marine Corps, said she is pleased to have family fighting in Iraq and supports the war effort.
“I’m proud to have a family member out there defending our country [and] I’m absolutely stoked about what we’re doing,” she said.
Clark said that the war is not discussed much on campus but that most people would like it to end and don’t understand the planning required to do so.
“No one addresses [the war] directly [at Mills], just in a general sense,” she said. “I know people are big on bringing the boys home yet I feel they’re not aware of how much effort that requires.”
Freshwoman Brenda Salantes has two close friends in the Army Infantry division and shares a similar opinion about the war.
“I definitely think it’s for a good cause,” Salantes said. “With the way those boys talk about the fighting and chaos that happens between the two groups I can see why it’s such a necessity to have them there.”
Salantes said that the topic does not come up much at Mills, yet feels that she would have to restrain her opinion if a discussion were to arise.
“I would probably get into an argument with a lot of people here,” Salantes said. “I would rather go on with my day silently supporting them…than waste my time in petty arguments.”
Junior Justine Ayoob would have preferred that the war never occurred, yet is supportive of the U.S. military remaining in the region to finish the work they began. Her brother-in-law is a captain in the Army.
“I wish that the war had never started but now that it has, it’s good to stay,” Ayoob said. “All wars are bad [yet] we’re doing the best we can.”
Ayoob said she was deeply hurt when someone stole the yellow “Support Our Soldiers” ribbon displayed on the back of her car on campus in January.
“It’s not hard for me to accept people are against the war yet it’s hard to accept that people are against the soldiers,” Ayoob said.
Another difficulty students face by having relations in Iraq is limited communication with their loved ones.
Clark said she keeps in touch by sending care packages and hand-written letters because they “[have] more of a personal touch.” She said she occasionally receives responses from her cousin via forwarded e-mail messages from his mother but understands that he does not have much time to talk.
Ayoob has rarely been in contact with her brother-in-law and is always concerned about his well-being.
“Every day I’m wondering if I’m going to get the phone call from my sister saying he’s dead,” she said “It’s very difficult having someone over there—he’s the closest thing I have to a brother.”
Ryan Goede, one of Salantes’ friends in Iraq, said he rarely talks to loved ones because of the time difference and emotional involvement it requires.
“If I involve myself with everyone back home and their lives, I lose focus,” he said.
Shannon Jette, a watercraft engineer for the Army who returned from Iraq this month, said the same impulse prevented him from talking to Jane Kennedy, a freshwoman at Mills and a close friend. “I learned from basic training that I didn’t get homesick if I didn’t talk to people,” he said. “E-mail is good because there is not that much of a personal connection.”
Both students and soldiers are eager to reunite yet understand that there is still much work to be done in Iraq.
Salantes said that both of her friends return this month and “are really excited to be coming home since they will be starting a new life for themselves.”
Clark expects her cousin to come home next month, yet understands that he may remain there for another tour of duty. “What keeps them going is they believe in what they’re doing,” she said.