ARIZONA, USA — As the nation marks 20 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a group of Arizona high school students is reminded of the high cost of the war.
Apollo High School and Sunnyslope High School students went on a trip in Washington, D.C., last week through the Close Up civics education program. While visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, the students had an impromptu conversation with retired Army Combat Medic Chris Darragh.
Darragh, visiting Washington D.C. from Texas, was in Arlington to pay respects to fellow soldiers killed during his three tours of duty in Iraq. One of those who died was Jeremy Mulhair.
“He was my first casualty. I got to leave a quarter there and tell him I’ll see him again,” Darragh told the students. “That’s where my brothers and sisters are buried.”
During the five-minute conversation with the students, Darragh said he fought for them.
“Every single one of you are worth it,” Darragh said.
He acknowledged that, in retrospect, the war did not turn up weapons of mass destruction, as predicted by U.S. officials. Darragh asked the students to make sure the sacrifices of military service members at Arlington were not in vain. He said they should educate themselves on issues and vote.
“This whole republic, this democratic republic, doesn’t work without your understanding. Right? And I need you to be involved,” he said.
Sunnyslope High School student Idan Jones said Darragh’s words struck a chord.
“We see games and movies that show war,” Jones said. “He actually lost people and it must take such a toll. That hit me when he said they couldn’t save everybody.”
Apollo High School student Adrian Hernandez said he views the sacrifices of veterans differently after meeting Darragh.
“It’s something they did for us. Not for them, not for their ego, but they did it for future generations,” Hernandez said.
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