NATO Summit: U.S. Army and Iraq War Veteran Steve Acheson

Steve Acheson Courtesy Photo

Steve Acheson (far right) poses with fellow team
members in Iraq. (Photo Courtesy of Steve Acheson) 
 

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Steve Acheson, 26, U.S. Army veteran, will be among the estimated 30 to 50 IVAW veterans who will march from Grant Park to McCormick Place on Sunday to return their NATO medals, a gesture of justice for American soldiers currently deployed.

Acheson became a member of IVAW before [he] was even out of the Army, and signed out on Terminal Leave while wearing [his] IVAW T-shirt. He said that he originally enlisted in the army as a Forward Observer in Baghdad in 2004 to support and defend his country.

“I watched the second plane hit the tower on 9/11 live on TV in American History class my junior year of high school,” he said. “I joined when I was 18, I turned 19 in basic training, 20 during my deployment to Iraq and by the time I was 22 I had already had two life-altering surgeries on my lower back.”

Acheson said that the day-to-day struggles, sacrifices and suffering in Iraq were ultimately how he developed his anti-war opinions and shaped his decision to join IVAW.

“Having to stand helplessly at a traffic control point outside an elementary school and watch as young girls and boys, the same age as my younger brother and sisters, walk barefoot through this contamination to get to class was the proverbial straw that broke this camel's psychological back,” he said, “At the end of the day, I truly felt defeated. I felt like there was nothing I could do from that point forward that would in any way justify our actions.”

Acheson, who is working on a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said that he “can no longer sit by quietly” in regard to NATO wars. And that is why he is vocal about his disapproval of NATO actions and policies.

“NATO has long been a symbol of America's military influence around the world,” he said. “This is not the first time that NATO has directed illegal and unjust wars in the name of war-profiteering. Unless we stand up and use our First Amendment rights to show them how much we disapprove of their actions and policies, this type of warfare will continue to plague us as a society and species.”

Although his opinions on NATO wars are strong, Acheson’s expectations for the actual summit are low.

“I don't have very high expectations as far as an official response from NATO to the scheduled IVAW Action on Sunday," he said. "The last thing NATO generals want to do is accept back medals from the very veterans they sent to fight in their wars.”

In the end, Acheson is relying on the American citizens to voice their oppositions in order for NATO to make the decisions that he wants: the “immediate” end of war in Afghanistan. 

“My hope and expectations lie with the citizens of this country,” he said. “When they hear our message, will they come to their senses and join us to once and for all end the war in Afghanistan? Or will they go with the status quo, buy little yellow "support the troops" magnets for their SUVs, put their head in the sand, and sit idly by and watch as more innocent lives are lost everyday?” -- Laura Fitzgerald and Cheryl Waity 

More: David Gagliano | Joe Franzese

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