Veteran: ‘Good stuff’ going on in Iraq

Capt. Shawn Abbe knows there is more to what is going on in Iraq than Americans watch on the nightly news.

“There’s a lot of good stuff going on there,” Abbe told more than 130 students in the Charles V. Park Library auditorium Tuesday. “If you want to know what’s really going on, come to me. I’ll tell you great stories about how appreciative the (Iraqi) people are.”

Abbe is in the 1437th Multi Role Bridge Company of the Michigan Army National Guard in Sault St. Marie. He spoke to students for an hour as part of the William B. Nolde Lecture Series.

Abbe originally joined the National Guard to earn money for college tuition, but it wasn’t long before his attitude changed, he said.

“When I got to the Guard, I saw that there’s a lot more to the military than college money,” Abbe said. “You’re out there serving your country, giving back to the country that’s given so much to you.”

Abbe acknowledged the credibility of stories featuring soldiers killed in Iraq, but said the media ignored more positive stories. He described the benefit of his 15 years serving the Michigan Army National Guard.

“What’s going on is we’re giving freedom to people who have not had freedom for so long,” Abbe said. “That’s the rewarding part.”

The audience included several members of CMU’s ROTC program, who appreciated the points Abbe made.

“Most of what he said was really what people should be focusing on, especially in Iraq,” said Saginaw sophomore Matthew Hartl, a ROTC cadet. “It was not all bad stuff, which is very appropriate.”

Hartl entered the ROTC after returning from a 369-day tour in Iraq last April. His experiences in Iraq were similar to Abbe’s, he said.

“We had different mission, but generally the experience with the Iraqi people was real similar,” Hartl said.

Brian Szczepanek, ROTC battalion public affairs officer, served with Abbe in Iraq. He was reminded of his experiences during Abbe’s lecture, he said.

“He had a lot of good things to say about the military and what we’re doing in Iraq,” the Grand Haven senior said. “It was kind of a reminder of our serving and how good it was to serve.”

The series is named after Colonel William B. Nolde, a former assistant professor of military science at CMU and the last official casualty of the Vietnam War. The series is intended to promote an understanding of the United States Armed Forces’ role in the life and history of the United States and to recognize the link between military science and CMU’s broader disciplines, according to the event program.


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