Local opinions vary on war between U.S. and Iraq

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   As Elizabethton bids farewell to the servicemen and women of the 776th Company of the National Guard, residents reminisce about other conflicts in U.S. history. American viewpoints on war have always varied, and current opinions on mounting tension in Iraq are no different.
   Some local residents on Wednesday were asked to share their opinion on the deployment of the local company, as well as the overall situation in the Middle East. Though all who were surveyed stated they feel safer knowing we are sending troops overseas, their opinions on the timing of war vary.
   Carter Countian, Richard Hamilton is in full support of military aggression in Iraq. He stated that the general public should trust President Bush to make the right decision.
   "He is the commander in chief. He has intelligence, the CIA, and people over there that he knows about and maybe we don't need to know about because you don't need to tip your hand to the opposition," Hamilton said. "We may not know all the details, but that does not mean that he does not know them."
   Hamilton recalled classmates who were sent to Vietnam, and he believes the men and women of the 776th face a different type of departure than the one he witnessed years ago. He noted that the members of the local company are mostly volunteers who stepped forward to defend the nation.
   "When I was growing up it was the draft and you had to go," Hamilton said. "Yes, they are going but I don't see anybody complaining. These guys signed up and know the risk involved."
   Greg Snodgrass is currently studying for his master's degree in history at Milligan College. He believes intervention in Iraq is necessary to prevent future disaster. He said history reveals reasons for military force in the Middle East today.
   "If we knew about Pearl Harbor before that occurred, then I believe we could have taken steps to prevent that, and I believe we are in a situation now where we can prevent a lot of things from happening in the future that we do not know about," Snodgrass said. "Being proactive is the way to go."
   Some local residents would like to see more concrete evidence that Hussein is harboring weapons of mass destruction before troops are deployed.
   "I think we should wait and see first, discuss it, and then go over maybe," Elizabethton resident, Nancy Brown said.
   Greg Simerly shares Brown's sentiments, and added that America should not need to place large amounts of servicemen and women in danger, because we have technological advantages.
   "I can see the possibility if they can show me more proof that he has the weapons that they say he does," Simerly said. "I don't think that we should be sending as many ground troops in as we are with as much technology as we have today. I think we are jumping the gun by sending ground troops over there."
   Austin Gilday served in the Army in the early 1950's and watched his father leave to fight in World War II. He stated that seeing the local 776th leave reminds him of many conflicts in history, and though he would like more input from weapons inspectors before the troops are sent into Iraq, Gilday is comforted by knowing the unit is leaving to protect the nation.
   "I feel safer because I was in the service and I went over there to protect this country and I believe they are doing the same thing," Gilday said.