Former JBLM soldier wounded in Iraq: ‘Let them handle their own civil war’

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Local Iraq war veteran Nicholas McCallon says, “The best thing may be to stay out of it. Let them handle their own civil war.” (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE — As Iraq erupts again in civil war, hearts are heavy in Western Washington. The lives of local military families could be disrupted again, if the situation continues to escalate.

On Friday, naval bases in Snohomish and Kitsap counties, as well as JBLM, say it’s too early to talk about the exact impact. But some veterans believe local soldiers could be deployed to a war that was supposed to be over when the last U.S. troops left on Dec. 18, 2011 — eight years after U.S. forces invaded the country.

The insurgents’ momentum in Iraq this week is heart-wrenching for local veteran Nicholas McCallon.

“It makes me feel like a failure, like you failed your country. We pulled out so quickly, we did not have our bases covered,” McCallon said.

During his two tours in Iraq, the former JBLM solider was injured by IED’s seven different times and lost three close friends in areas now overrun by militants.

“I don’t know why I am still here. I often think I should have died. but I am alive. But my friends aren’t,” McCallon said.

President Obama is determined to keep ground troops out of Iraq but other options like drone strikes and surveillance flights are on the table. Some believe local soldiers will be called for duty once again.

“It could mean that some of them are deployed again, every military installation would be affected,” McCallon said.

Sue Rothwell hopes that is wrong.

“Here, we cannot come to work and forget about the war,” she said.

Rothwell owns “Gerties,” a well-known hangout for JBLM soldiers. She says up to 90 percent of her customers are military folks.

“We get to know their faces and what they eat, what they are like,” Rothwell said.

Too often those familiar faces never come back — but they are not forgotten.

The pictures of fallen heroes are on her wall, and they are a constant reminder that the war may never be over.

“It’s hard to be happy at Gerties. We are happy when they come home, but underneath we know they may be going out again,” Rothwell said.

For those who can speak from experience, such as McCallon, he said it may be time for the United States to stand down when it comes to Iraq.

“It may be a lost cause. The best thing may be to stay out of it. Let them handle their own civil war,” McCallon said.

McCallon was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq. He says it takes a lot more than bravery to win a war; he wants the government to have a comprehensive plan if they decide again to fight insurgents in Iraq.

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