NATO Summit: U.S. Marine and Iraq War Veteran Joe Franzese

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Joe Franzese always knew that he wanted to be a Marine. Enlisting directly out of high school, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were also Marines, Franzese left his hometown near Bloomingdale for boot camp in San Diego in August 2003.

“9/11 happened when I was a junior in high school and that was detrimental to what my vision of the U.S. and service was and that provoked me to join the military,” he said. “It was something I always idolized growing up.”

Franzese, who served five years active duty and two years reserve in the Marine Corps, spent four of nine months overseas in Iraq as a Security Detachment aboard an aircraft carrier. He was promoted to platoon sergeant in 2007 and left active duty in 2008. 

Franzese, 27, currently serves as vice president of DePaul University’s Student Veteran’s Union. Franzese, who will graduate in June with a Bachelor’s in Communication and Media Studies, said he thinks of his involvement with other veterans at DePaul as a “form of solidarity.”

“Being involved in these types of things and being involved in that veteran community, it boasts our benefits,” he said. “It’s because of the GI Bill, which was passed because of veteran organization, [and] allows us to come to DePaul.”

Although Franzese said that there are a lot of good opportunities that come out of service in the military, he also said that finding a good cause for war is “really hard,” which led to his wariness toward NATO wars.

“When you deploy to the combat zone and you’re in war, none of it is good,” he said. “Afghanistan has turned into the longest war in American history. And you’ve got to look at the cost of life on both sides-the civilian casualties, the enemy casualties and the U.S. casualties. And what’s it all worth and why have we done it?”

But Franzese has no plans to give up his NATO medals.

“I feel that my service is honorable and I wouldn’t give up my medals for that. I wouldn’t give up the awards I was given out of respect-purely out of respect-for the men and women that have made that sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice, and died for their country,” he said. “I didn’t make as much of a sacrifice as other men and women did, but out of respect for them I’m going to wear my medals proudly.”

Although Franzese will not protest on Sunday, he urges NATO dignitaries to make a decision that is “in the best interest of the globe.”

“Nobody’s going to be completely happy,” he said. “There’s not going to be a resolve that’s completely perfect. There never is, otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now. I hope people make decisions for the right reasons. Not for money or for the economy or for oil but for actual peace and justice and tranquility. I think everyone is entitled to that.”  -- Laura Fitzgerald and Cheryl Waity 

More: Steve Acheson | David Gagliano 

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