All for nothing? Oklahomans with close connections to the war say they are deeply disappointed with Iraq's progress

Two years after the last American troops pulled out of the country, and after the death of nearly 4,500 U.S. military service members, some Oklahomans with close connections to the war say they are deeply disappointed with Iraq’s progress and question whether it was worth all the sacrifice.
By Kyle Hinchey, Staff Writer, khinchey@opubco.com Modified: June 16, 2014 at 11:44 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014

The Aug. 4, 2006, death of Army Staff Sgt. Clint Storey from a roadside bomb blast in Ramadi, Iraq, shattered his wife. Melissa Storey found some peace knowing her 30-year-old husband, an Enid native, died fighting for a cause in which he believed.

But that cause died when the U.S. government decided to pull out of Iraq before the job was done, she says. Iraq’s recent spiral into chaos only affirms her belief that the withdrawal of U.S. troops rendered the eight-year Iraq War pointless.

“Now all the hard work, all the lives lost, all the blood shed, all the men and women that came back with the injuries that you cannot see along with the ones who came back with injuries you can see, the government just said it was all for nothing,” Storey said.

On Monday, Sunni extremists associated with a renegade al-Qaida group continued their push through northern Iraq closing within 60 miles of Baghdad, the seat of government power. As the capital girded for possible attack by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. evacuated some embassy personnel and President Barack Obama once again weighed the possible use of American forces in the region. Two years after the last American troops pulled out of the country, and after the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. military service members, some people with close connections to the war say they are deeply disappointed with Iraq’s progress and question whether it was worth all the sacrifice.

Kelly Holliday, 48, of Broken Arrow, doesn’t believe her son should ever have been in Iraq in the first place. She supported the war when the goal was to find weapons of mass destruction. She felt it was justified. But when the weapons turned out not to exist, she questioned the legitimacy of American troops remaining.

Still, she couldn’t stop Jaron from going to war. He’d wanted to be in the military since a young age. Spc. Jaron Holliday, 21, died Aug. 4, 2007, when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad. He was the oldest of eight siblings. To Kelly Holliday’s dismay, U.S. troops remained in the country four more years after her son’s death and hundreds more soldiers became casualties.

“I don’t think they had any opportunity to give Iraq any type of freedom at all,” Holliday said of American forces. “I don’t think they ever had an opportunity to do that.”

She hopes government officials don’t make the same mistake again. U.S. troops re-entering Iraq would be a waste of lives and finances, she said.

Retired Army Sgt. Demetrius Wright, 40, of Edmond, is tired of hearing recent news from Iraq. As a senior in journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, he’d rather focus on sports writing. But he’s finding it’s not so easy to ignore the conflict; his classes require him to keep up with foreign affairs.

Wright deployed as a communications officer with the Oklahoma National Guard’s 179th Infantry Regiment from 2008 to 2009 near Balad, Iraq, or as he calls it, “Mortaritaville,” a reference to the constant mortar bombardments during his tour. Earlier this week, ISIS fighters overran Balad. When he left Iraq for Oklahoma, Wright was glad to never go back. He sees no benefit in American forces returning.

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I don’t think they had any opportunity to give Iraq any type of freedom at all. I don’t think they ever had an opportunity to do that.”

Kelly Holliday,
Her son, Spc. Jaron Holliday died Aug. 4, 2007, when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

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