Monday, February 11, 2008

Iraq vet talks to juniors

Back in June, Mrs. Lopez's students, myself included, had an unforgettable experience: Cliff Pebley's 22-year-old brother Jon, a Marine coming off his first tour in Iraq, spoke to the classes, giving us a new perspective on the Iraq War. Since then, he's been back to that battlefield, but, as he explained to Mrs. Lopez's classes last week, it's not what you think it's like. The Lance Corporal describes his first tour as more "aggressive," a time he spent "kicking in doors" and "blowing people up." The tour, which took place between 2005 and 2006, was a "hectic" one, during which he had "a few" near-death experiences.
But things are "different" down there now. Pebley spent his second tour "training [the] Iraqi military." He assures America that, though the "news makes Iraq look bad," there is actually "not much fighting", and that the Iraqi army and police are "doing most of the work."
"It's really, really quiet over there," the foot soldier said.
Pebley spent most of the 74 minute block taking the students' questions, painting a detailed picture of life in a battlefield.
"How did you know the food wasn't poisoned?" a student asked.
"We didn't," Pebley replied. "You don't get poisoned per se," he added, "but you get dysentery."
"What's the hottest temperature you had to tolerate when you were over there?" Mrs. Lopez asked.
"163" degrees, he said. The effect on him was somewhat similar to the New England winter's effect on us. "Your face starts cracking."
His tour may be over, but Pebley doesn't want to stop fighting. "I've been to Iraq twice, there's not much action. They try to make Iraq look so bad, but Afghanistan is as bad as Iraq was two years ago."
"The fighting in Afghanistan's a lot different because of the terrains," he explained. "They hide in caves and in mountains. I dunno where they are."
"If I can reenlist, I will probably do that," he told the class. What if he can't? "I want to go to bar tending school, college, open up my own little bar."
Pebley described some visits from the U.S.O. "A few years ago I got to see Yellowcard," he said. "I got to meet Chuck Norris. It was awesome!"
Don't expect to see Pebley, or many servicemen for that matter, at the polls. "A lot of the military doesn't vote," he said. "We really don't care who's in charge, we follow our boss."
But if he decides to vote in the end, he'll likely support a fellow veteran. "I think I'd rather have McCain," he told us, "because then I'd get paid more." His current salary? "$175 a week."
Pebley has seen some horrible things during his tours. "I've seen someone who was already hanged, didn't see him get hanged." However, he doesn't "think we should really change the numbers" of troops in Iraq "until the Iraqi army is mature enough to fend for themselves."
The Q&A ended on a somewhat lighter note.
"Have you played that new game Call of Duty 4?" a student asked.
"Yes, it's awesome!" he replied. "The most realistic war game I've ever played."
The bell rang, and the class began to clap, but Pebley silenced his audience. We see him as a hero, someone who's risked his life for a cause twice in Iraq and seeks to do it again in Afghanistan. But Lance Corporal Jon Pebley sees himself as just another guy.

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