Next Gen. Essay Winner — Life lessons forged in Iraq

justinjustinbrecht2By Taxpayer Association of Oregon

Justin Brecht of Canby has won the 2015 Next Generation essay contest and  a new Apple Watch as top prize!

The Taxpayer Association created the contest to give a voice to Oregon’s younger generationPlease read his amazing essay on how serving in Iraq help shape his political worldview.

How my own personal experience shaped my political world view
By Justin Brecht, Canby

The most enduring experience that has shaped my political views is without a doubt, my two deployments into Iraq as an enlisted infantry Marine. In 2004 it became my lot in life to fight in the city of Fallujah. This was the biggest urban battle since Hue city in Vietnam. To put this in perspective, of the approximately one hundred and thirty Marines in my infantry company, eighty five received purple hearts—a sixty five percent casualty rate.

As a callow but sincerely conscientious young man, there was nothing more profoundly sobering than experiencing the brutality and great destruction of life and property that only war can produce. I began to deeply reflect upon how my military virtue was being tasked out by the elected leaders within our government. Euphemisms such as “collateral damage”, “blue on blue”, or “individual sacrifice” suddenly became a harsh substantive reality to me. Exposure to the unforgiving nature of war elicited within me deep inquiries about what my comrades and I were truly fighting for. It quickly became an ominous question because I knew that the purpose of my fellow Marines violent death was inescapably intertwined to the answer.

The war’s ostensible justification, grounded upon “weapons of mass destruction”, became painfully apparent: The only WMD’s in Iraq to be found were endemic starvation and poverty. The absence of chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq cast a long shadow of discouragement that my brothers in arms may have perished in vain. A devastating thought that has surely led some veterans to suicide.

Tempered by time, I came to realize that the legacy of my friend’s death does not rest upon Iraq falling into the hands of theocratic fascists, nor did it finding WMD’s. No veteran that fought in OIF swore an oath to defend Iraq—we all swore an oath to defend the Constitution, period.

Today my politics are grounded upon and deducible from that forever binding oath I took many years ago. Defending domestically the Constitution’s democratic values against individuals whose weapons of choice are casuistry and chicanery requires unwavering vigilance. Likewise, defending individual Constitutional rights against the incremental erosions of a well-intended but misguided majority requires persistent courage. In politics, just like war, complacency and cowardice kills (often at the expense of others). My experience has led me to the understanding that politics is not a job; it was meant to be a duty.

— If you enjoyed this essay please vote for the other youth essays in the People’s Choice here.