Steven Acheson, 27, said he was trained to hate Iraqis when he joined the service to support and defend his country.
The Iraq Veterans Against War member went to basic training in February 2004 at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma.
“I watched the second plane hit the tower on 9/11 live on TV in [my] American History class, junior year of High School. My history professor, and old hippie from the 60s, started crying and said ‘welcome WWIII’ after the second tower fell,” said Acheson via email, while describing why he joined the service.
He added, that like most boys who grow up in a small town in Wisconsin he “bought the lies and misdirection so masterfully masqueraded on major news networks.”
“I joined when I was 18 [years old], I turned 19 in basic training, 20 during my deployment to Iraq and by the time I was 22 I had already had two life-altering surgeries on my lower back,” Acheson said.
But what changed everything for Acheson and the reason he decided to join IVAW he said, he cannot pinpoint.
However, there is a particular moment where he began to question his own involvement in the war.
He was deployed to Sadr City where waste management involved trenches that went from house to house and then filtered further to a large trench near the street at the end of the block.
The removal of this waste, he said, was not frequent due to “interference from local terrorism and political tensions.”
“When the flood rains cam, the trenches and pools didn’t stand a chance in hell. The entire area northeast of Baghdad, to include Sadr City and Camp Loyalty (where Acheson was stationed at the time), were under three feet of water at times.”
But that water “was literally right up to the doorstep of the building my platoon used as a barracks,” was not just water–it included waste as well.
When the water finally subsided, “leaving Sadr City [was] covered in a condensed layer of it’s own soupy waste,” said Acheson.
Acheson said that the worse part of it all was, “having to stand helplessly at a traffic control point outside an elementary school and watch as young girls and boys the same age as my younger brother and sisters, walk barefoot through this contamination to get to class.”
According to Acheson, this is what broke him. “At the end of this day, I truly felt defeated.”
Acheson joined IVAW before he was even out of the Army; he was honorable discharged in November 2008. He signed out wearing his IVAW shirt.
Sunday, during the noNATO protest at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road, Acheson–along with several other veterans– returned his medals.