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Student Veterans Weigh In at Iraq Symposium

Student Veterans Weigh In at Iraq Symposium
Jay Upton
Student Veterans Weigh In at Iraq Symposium

“Simply because you use the word ‘improvised’ explosive doesn’t mean that the insurgents are poorly armed. They are allowed by law to have AK-47s, one per household, and by improvised explosive device, they mean putting mortar shells together to create bigger bombs. To say that they’re poorly armed is inappropriate.”

This was UMB student and Army National Guard Specialist Seth Katz’s response to Congressman Barney Frank’s statement that the Iraqi insurgents are poorly armed.

UMass Boston’s student veterans brought their personal perspectives on the war to last Friday’s Iraq and Afghanistan Symposium.

Katz’s comments caught the congressman off guard and sent him into a comparison between the United States military might and Iraqi insurgents.

Along with Katz, seven UMass Boston veterans addressed the Campus Center ballroom. They brought an air of legitimacy to a room where politicians spoke out on what they see as answers to the war in Iraq.

The group included Katz, Eric Hill, Lisa Boulay, Jennifer Cummings, Raymond Travers, Caroline Muriama, Antoinette Lewiston, and George Castro.

Hill, a lieutenant and platoon leader in the National Guard, lead off with an analogy of the Iraqi heat.

“Take your oven and turn it up to about 350, then get a blow dryer and a bottle of hot water. Now stick your head in the oven and blow dry your head, when you get thirsty drink some of that hot water. That was Iraq,” said Hill, also a member of the Boston Police Department.

Many of these student veterans were not career soldiers. They were in school, and had jobs and families that were left behind when they left to serve their country.

Gus St. Silva, Director of Veterans Affairs for UMass Boston said, “Since September 11, I’ve experienced nearly 83 students that have been called to duty, putting back their studies to serve.”

Caroline Muriama, had just enrolled in classes at UMB when she was called for duty with the Army National Guard 1058 Transportation Unit. After three months of deployment in Iraq she received news that her father had passed away.

“My father, he was very gung-ho about the military. ‘My little girl’s being a soldier and everything,'” said Muriama. “I thought I’d never make it and I’d never live another day. I came back from the funeral and survival mode was key to keeping me alive, so I could come home and achieve whatever I wanted to do.”

Muriama is still a member of the National Guard and says she intends to stay in because a lot remains to be done.

Freshman Ray Travers is no longer in the Army, but is grateful for the experiences and perspectives he gained in the First Ranger Battalion. Travers, who was also involved in the Veterans Upward Bound program, is eager to utilize his military background in partnership with the benefits of a UMB education.

“As a soldier what I thought I could do there was basically next to nothing…I just think that I can do so much more with an education and to talk with people and improve the situation of other veterans,” he said.

Travers, as well as the other veterans who spoke, cited Gus St. Silva and the veteran community on campus as an asset to students involved with the military at UMB.

“The politicians are great, but they’re all down the road and in the distance, because you’re all here in my life and everyone else’s life who’s coming back,” he said, referencing the congressmen who had opened the symposium.

Nursing student and National Guard medic Seth Katz recalled a conversation he had with a close friend and Vietnam veteran as the best way he could impart the experiences of any veteran.

“He told me, ‘it’s part of you now,'” said Katz. “And that’s the best way to describe it, because the images you see will always be there and they’ll haunt your memories.”