Several North Alabama veterans attended a Flag Day ceremony at Athens State University. (WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -
Several North Alabama veterans watched the President speak, and attended a Flag Day ceremony at Athens State University. Many of them said they were closely following what was unfolding in Iraq.
Vietnam veteran Robert Malone gave the benediction at the event. He said he thought American soldiers had done enough in Iraq and now it's time for the Iraqi people and their military to step up and take control.
He said we pulled when it was the right time, and he didn't think America was giving up on Iraq if we don't return with more troops to help. He said it's a really sad situation, but he believed the Iraqi government needed to hold up their end of the bargain if they're ever going to come out of this.
"I heard them mention today that they're looking at other ways of doing things as opposed to sending troops back in," said Malone. "That's what I would be in favor of."
One Iraq War veteran who served two tours called the insurgency a slap in the face. Sean Chapman served in the United States Army and did a tour of Iraq during shock and awe in 2003 and then returned in 2005.
He said he's glued to the headlines and he couldn't believe what was going on. He said brave Americans lost their lives for the Iraqi people, and he said it's an absolute disgrace the Iraqi Army is now abandoning their posts.
Chapman said he couldn't imagine what families who lost loved ones over there were going through. The Iraq War veteran said it's time for the Iraq government to step up, and the one thing he didn't want to see is more American troops on the ground in Iraq.
"If they do decide to go back into this country yet again, how many more men and women are going to die?" said Chapman. "How many sons and daughters? Husbands and wives? You have to get to a point where you stop."
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks said if President Obama had left a peace keeping force in Iraq in 2011 like Senator John McCain warned, Brooks believes we could have avoided the current Iraqi crisis. He said, had the president kept 10-15,000 American troops there, they would have given the Iraqi forces a backbone, and that's something they don't have today.
Brooks said that that's what we did in Korea, Vietnam, and Germany after wars there and it worked well. He said because events were unfolding so fast in Iraq, the House Armed Services Committee, a committee he sits on, has not met to discuss yet.
Brooks said he listened to the president address the conflict. He's calling for the president and the National Security Council to work with Congress to help bring a resolution to the ongoing chaos.
"I hope that we don't have to send troops in, but at the same time, we have to understand that the ISIS terror organization is a threat to the United States of America," said Brooks. "They have as one of their top five goals attacking the United States of America on our home turf."
Ayman Girgis was with the 101st Airborne when Operation Iraqi Freedom rolled into Iraq. He said the violence and advancing terrorist army now threatening the country would not be hard to anticipate after the Americans left.
"For us to leave Iraq did not help at all," said Girgis. "It left Iraq vulnerable to those extremists."
As a native Arabic speaker himself, Girgis dealt with many Iraqis and said when US forces were there, Iraqis pulled together. With no American backup, even Iraqi soldiers are turning tail and running.
"The people of Iraq were supporting American troops. We were working hand-in-hand and those extremists did not have a place," said Girgis. "It's not a great surprise. Many of them did the same when we went in."
Girgis said the terrorist army threatens more than just Iraq and could endanger the entire region.
"It's going to need some kind of support, major support, to the Iraqis," said Girgis.
The 101st had its headquarters in Mosul. It became a thriving model city. Over the week, Mosul fell to the terrorists, bitter news for Girgis and fellow veterans.
"We will not be happy seeing the blood and sweat we shed there going for nothing," said Girgis. "We lost American troops there to help Iraqis. We lost time. We worked very hard. We did so much good. It is not easy to see all this gone for nothing."
Even as we've seen news of some Iraqi soldiers being brutally murdered by the terrorists, and some simply taking off their uniforms and running away, Girgis said he sees some hope in the number of Iraqis lining up to enlist and fight for their country. However, he said America will have to get involved sooner or later.