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Vets urging caution on war

November 12, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - No one knows the consequences of waging war on Iraq better than someone who has served in the military.

"Veterans like war less than anybody. Veterans know what it's like and they would always prefer a peaceful solution," said Robert Glausier, president of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County.

Many Tri-State area veterans interviewed Monday said they support President Bush but urge caution in taking action against Saddam Hussein.

"If it has to be, it has to be," said Ralph Baker, 80, of Hagerstown, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

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Ted Dundus, 68, of Halfway, said he worries that the United States is trying to fight the war on terrorism on too many fronts.

"We don't have the forces we used to have," said Dundus, who served a combined 41 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard.

Stuart Abraham, 86, an engineer during World War II, said an attack on Iraq will be very difficult to organize effectively.

"It's going to be hard to do it without a lot of casualties," he said.

A war would create a lot of heartache for soldiers' family members, said William McCleaf of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., who is national commander of the 29th Division Association.

"It's going to put a lot of people through hell, not knowing what their kids are going through. I say kids because that's what they are," he said.

If the United States attacks Iraq, Marine Sgt. Gene Danfelt, 23, would likely be one of many sent into combat. He fought in Kandahar, Afghanistan, last year as a member of the Anti-terrorism Battalion.

"I'd be a fool to say that I'm not nervous," said Danfelt, who attended a Veterans Day ceremony on Monday with his father, David Danfelt, 52, of Williamsport.

David Danfelt agreed with many veterans who said they feel that war with Iraq is inevitable.

"Whatever keeps freedom, we've got to do. If we don't do it, no one else will," said Ret. Sgt. Maj. Vernon "Bucky" Weller, 77, of Chambersburg, Pa., who spent six years on active duty and 31 years in the Army Reserves.

"I feel we should pursue every possibility to avoid a war, but if we can't avoid it, we have to go in," said Paul Kriner, 86, as the two men ate lunch Monday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1599 in Chambersburg. Kriner served eight years on active duty and four years in the Army Reserves.

Nearby, Allen Smetzer, who served three years in the Army infantry during World War II, had a similar view.

"I think it's a necessary action. But we should first give Iraq the opportunity to disarm before making any moves. I think there has to be positive proof (that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction) before there are any military actions," Smetzer said.

Byron Ashburn, commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 78 in Chambersburg, said he didn't think the country should blindly follow the president.

"I do agree with him 100 percent though. We have a great deal of responsibility with the power we have," said Ashburn, who served more than two years in the Navy in World War II.

"If we go in, we have to go in with a full force," said Allen Melius, commander of the Joint Veterans Council of the Chambersburg Area. "A lot of people are asking to hold off action, but if we don't go in now, it might be too late later."

Veterans attending a re-enactment of a World War II canteen in Charles Town, W.Va., Monday afternoon were leery about going to war with Iraq.

Only "strictly as a last resort" should war with Iraq be considered, said World War II veteran Garland Moore.

"If they try hard enough, it can be settled without going to war," said Moore, a long-time Jefferson County resident and former president of the Jefferson County Commission.

Moore said what the country needs to remember is that sending young men off to "get clobbered" in a war is a heavy responsibility.

"We haven't got enough people to back us," said Kaye Bush, adding that the only country that seems to want to support the U.S. in a war with Iraq is Britain.

Bush, a Korean War veteran, is also worried about how much money it will cost the U.S. if it goes to war with Iraq.

"I think we've spent enough in Afghanistan. I don't think the country could take it," said Bush, of Charles Town.

"It (war) might be necessary, but I sure hope it's not necessary," said Edwin Sprouse, a World War II veteran who lives in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Sprouse said sometimes he thinks the U.S. should bring all its soldiers home "and let all of Baghdad's neighbors worry about all that."

Edward L. Pine, however, said he supports everything President Bush has done on the issue regarding Iraq.

"I think something needs to be done with that Saddam. We got to do something to stop this guy," said Pine, a World War II veteran who lives in Charles Town.

Shippensburg, Pa., resident Chris Sheffield, 38, also said he supports President Bush's efforts against Iraq.

"If we don't have a secure America, it's not a free America. Thank goodness we have folks willing to serve," said Sheffield, who served four years in the Marine Corps.

Staff writers Stacey Danzuso and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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