NATO Summit: U.S. Navy and Afghanistan War Veteran David Gagliano
Today, David Gagliano is a business student at DePaul University. But less than two years ago, his life was drastically different.
Gagliano, 26, was serving as a PO2 in the fifth fleet aboard the USS Pelieau and USS Green Bay providing maritime support for Operation Enduring Freedom, the war in Afghanistan.
Gagliano enlisted in 2006. He didn’t have anyone in his immediate family who served in the military so not everyone understood his exact reasons for deciding to enlist in a time of war.
“When I said I wanted to join ‘it was like what’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?’ because it was 2006 and things were going off at that point,” he said. “But I was going to join the Navy so I thought I’d be pretty good and I ended up being OK.”
Before his enlistment, he was attending the College of DuPage, but decided he needed a change — he had a sense of adventure that he wanted to fulfill.
“People have this misconception like ‘Oh, I want to serve my country,’ this and that and this big heroic thing about why you joined,” Gagliano said. “I’m as patriotic as the next guy, that’s for sure, but when you’re 18 years old, you do want to serve but it’s not necessarily on that big grand level. You’re looking for a sense of adventure, a sense of action, change at that age a teenage guy or a young 20s guy they want something different. “
Although Gagliano doesn’t regret any of his time in service, his views of the war have changed through time. In the beginning Gagliano saw it as retribution for 9/11 and for him, that was a good thing. When he was initially deployed in 2006 he was more focused on Iraq than Afghanistan, but the 10 years in Afghanistan has left him with questions.
“I don’t really know what the plan is,” he said. “And I guess I really didn’t know before either but I guess things looked better.”
Now Gagliano thinks it’s time for the U.S. to leave.
“I don’t really know what are we getting out of Afghanistan now,” he said. “And I guess that’s why we’re getting out now. I completely support the president and everybody else who’s saying we need to get out. I think a managed withdrawal is definitely the right thing to do to try to hand it over to the Afghans.”
As much as Gagliano thinks it’s time to get out of Afghanistan, he is pushing for NATO to make a responsible decision to “try to put politics aside to get something done that’s good for everybody.“
“American has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Afghanistan. And it is our war. September 11 was an American thing, and we went in there with NATO support,” he said. “I do hope that we get out and we get out responsibly. That's not to say that I want to be in there for another 10 years so we can withdrawal responsibly.” -- Laura Fitzgerald and Cheryl Waity