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Soldiering on as Bush moves into 2nd term

William Ferchland
Provided to the Tribune Kingsbury Grade resident and Air National Guard member Paul Banish, who leans left politically, said a Kerry win would have had little effect on the Iraq war.
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Like many Californians, Damon Houle, a 2000 graduate of South Tahoe High School, voted for Sen. John Kerry in last week’s presidential election.

Unlike many Californians, Houle is stationed in the “red state” of Kentucky while serving his six-year hitch in the U.S. Army.

Houle is one of several South Shore people with military ties and vested interest who paid close attention to the outcome of the presidential election.

Like 48 percent of the voters, Houle desired change in the United States’ foreign policy and military strategy. The majority of voters, however, wanted President Bush to keep on course. Others, despite their preference, said neither candidate would evoke much change.

In his flight platoon of 90 soldiers, Houle said about five, including himself, voted for Kerry. His comrades wanted President Bush re-elected for possible future tax breaks and hikes in their paychecks.

“The military is widely Republican. I think that has to do with soldiers coming from the South and East,” Houle said from Kentucky, where he owns a home and two dogs.

To his surprise, Houle said the contrast between the two candidates’ military service to their country during the Vietnam War did not seem to sway his platoon members.

Houle stayed up late Nov. 2 to watch the returns. He said he felt “ill” after Kerry conceded and believes he will be sent back to Iraq where he served on Chinook helicopters.

“I wouldn’t expect to pull out of there, by no means,” Houle said about his expectations on a Kerry win. “I think he could have came in there with new ideas.”

A mother’s perspective

Candace Robinson was looking for a new direction in United States foreign policy. Her son, Ansel, left for Southern California for Camp Pendleton last month.

During his time at South Tahoe High School and despite the war in Iraq, Ansel wanted to be a Marine. Candace braced herself before Ansel went into the military a few months after he graduated last spring.

Candace knew a Kerry win wouldn’t equate to the immediate reduction of troops in Iraq. She has a sinking suspicion her son’s chances of being sent to Iraq “at some point” are “rather high.”

Richard Hughes, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in South Lake Tahoe, backed Bush so the president could continue to oversee the plan for Iraq.

“I think George Bush is going to finish it so it doesn’t have to be done again,” Hughes said. “And I think Kerry would have caved into the liberals and tried to get out of there regardless of whether the job was done or not.”

The Vietnam vet was pleased to see the United States take the offensive against Fallujah this week. The attack by Iraq soldiers with support from U.S. Marines provided military action Hughes was hoping his vote for the president would help bring.

“Now they’re getting back to business,” Hughes said about the American military. “I think Fallujah was necessary to get those insurgents and we need to whip their ass and whip their ass until they quit.”

In it for the duration

Resting at his home along Kingsbury Grade after a bachelor party in Reno, Paul Bandish said it didn’t matter who became president. A cargo flight engineer with the Air National Guard in Reno, Bandish has spent two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The war in Iraq is too complicated for a quick fix, he said.

“I don’t think either had much of a choice to handle the situation” Banish, a Harveys Resort and Casino card dealer when he’s not in the military, said. “I honestly don’t believe we’re going to get out anytime soon.”

Despite his preference for Kerry, veteran Ron Schnur of Gardnerville holds no bad feelings for Bush. A day after Bush gave a victory speech for a second term, Schnur, a 71-year-old veteran of the Korean War, said he will back the 43rd president of the United States.

“As an ex-serviceman and American I support him 100 percent but I hope he comes back the next four years with an open mind,” he said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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