- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Sgt. Jon Fleenor, 25, from Sacramento, Calif. Married with one daughter, Alexis, who was born during his tour in Iraq. This was his second deployment to Iraq, and he was was wounded by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol on Oct. 15, 2008.

Fleenor is a tattoo artis t_ he left the the Army briefly to practice his craft before returning in 2007. He carried a teddy bear, a gift from his wife, that survived several bombings with him.

His perspectives on what war is all about and what serving in Iraq has been like:

“It’s going over to the other country making sure the dude to your left and right, they make it home alive. … That’s how I see war, just a job to bring everybody home safe.”

“I’m not one for ceremonies, especially a Purple Heart. I told my unit to just mail it to me because it’s not the first one. … Just a regular ceremony for something you don’t want.”

“If my vehicle wasn’t getting hit, somebody’s vehicle was getting hit, and I know this time around we pretty much drove around trying to get hit so we could find the bad guys.”

“If you sit there and mourn you’re going to worry about it every time you go out there, then it might happen to you. You can’t do that.”

“Some of the fun times _ just being on your truck crew, it’s like 1 o’clock in the morning. You’re just kicking back … taking 50 dump trucks full of gravel to wherever it needs to go, and it’s raining and you’re tired, you don’t want to be up. But everybody feels the same way so you just spend the four hours making fun of each other. That’s the good times. … They’re few and far between.”

“My first time through there was a lot more fighting. Rules were a lot different. We didn’t get in trouble if we shot somebody, if we had to get in a firefight. We didn’t worry about that. We just did our job. Kicked in doors, dragged people out. Did what we had to do to catch the bad people.”

“This time around it was a lot more controlled. … You can’t do anything, heaven forbid you point your weapon at them. You get in trouble. So that’s what’s frustrating. I wouldn’t want to do that again. I’m not a peacekeeper. I’m just there to find the bad people and take them away.”

“There is no success in Iraq. We got a whole bunch of bad guys the last time, and there’s still little ones floating around. All we did was destroy cities trying to find these people, a lot of people died.”

“This time around we might have made a couple of neighborhoods safer _ we probably did. I guess people can count that as success. But people are still getting hurt, still got a whole bunch of soldiers over there who aren’t coming home.”

“There’s no end to it so I don’t think they’re any success to it. They’re always going to be trying to hurt us while we’re there. So I don’t think there is success at the end of the road. It’s just monumentous.”

“I don’t feel bad for what I did in Iraq, I don’t regret anything. Proud? No, I don’t think so. People might be proud for me. I’m proud of my guys for doing a good job, doing what they’re supposed to do. I’m not proud of myself. I mean I did the best I could. I don’t think there’s a reason to be proud of anything. I wasn’t doing anything else than my job. I’m content with what I did.”

“Traffic opened up, opened streets up, people moved around more, all right, so there’s more vbids moving around, blowing us up. People got hurt. More cities got safe, part of the city, because more of us got hurt. Is it still our war? I don’t think it was ever our war in the first place.”

“However it plays out, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m sure there’s people who’ve been there five times, who swear upon them doing a great job. If that’s how they feel, then great. How that country turns out, I don’t care. There’s always a war to be fought, it’s going to be fought somewhere.”

“Unless you’ve been through it, there’s no way to understand. There’s no point in even trying to explain to anybody. You can talk all day long and they’re never going to get it.”

“You don’t have to kill a whole bunch of people to be a war hero. But when you do it every single day for 15 months straight, 12 months straight, it’s just a strain and you hate it and it’s the worst thing in the world, but you continue on to do it, then yeah, I guess that’s a war hero.”

“First time I was deployed I was home on leave and a rock hit the car. I jumped over the steering wheel and over like four car lanes. That’s the only time anything’s like that’s ever happened. Ever since then it’s just been like a light in my head. Nothing really bothers me anymore. Loud noises, what’s that?”

“I don’t like the Fourth of July. I don’t want to sit through the explosions. Then I think about getting blown up and rounds going everywhere. … I mean I’m not trying to go out and make everything come back to me. I’d much rather stay home on the Fourth of July and watch TV.”

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