Regular readers know I am a C-SPAN junkie. I watch Washington Journal every morning (M-Fr), Book TV on a semi-regular basis, and try to catch Bryan Lamb‘s interviews on Q&A and Booknotes as often as I can. For anyone interested in politics, especially American politics, it is a fantastic resource. Many people don’t realize C-SPAN is funded by the cable companies. It never ceases to amuse me when a rabid leftist will call in to the Washington Journal to complain about the horrors of corporate media ownership and then proceed to thank C-SPAN for its excellent, balanced coverage only to have the host remind them that C-SPAN is funded by the cable industry.
I’ve been watching the program “Three Years Later: Conversations with Iraq War Veterans” and it is excellent. In 2005, C-SPAN interviewed four returning Iraq war soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. They were recuperating from injuries they received in Iraq. Each of the soldiers had lost on appendage; some were double amputees. C-SPAN located all four and visited their homes to interview them a second time. The resulting series is a side by side comparison of these two sets of interviews.
Soldiers featured in the series include:
- Cpl. Michael Oreskovic, Creswell, OR
- Major Tammy Duckworth, (and her husband, Major Bryan Bowlsbey), Hoffman Estates, IL
- Lt. Erasmo Valles, San Antonio, TX
- Sgt. Manuel Mendoza Valencia, San Ramon, CA
C-SPAN provides biographical information on the four soldiers:
Michael Oreskovic was born in Medford, Oregon in 1981. He attended high school in Eugene, Oregon, graduating in 2000. He joined the Army in 2001. As part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, he fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq. On his last mission in Iraq, he was injured when a car bomb went off while he was on patrol in a stryker vehicle. He lost his left arm. Michael Oreskovic recuperated at Walter Reed for 13 months before returning to his home in Oregon. He retired from the Army in November 2005. He is currently attending Lane Community College working towards a master’s degree in education. He plans to become a middle school history teacher.
Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand and grew up in several different Asian countries while her father worked for a U.S. refugee program. At age 16, her family moved to Hawaii where she got her masters degree in political science. She joined ROTC in 1990 and was commissioned in the Army Reserve in Illinois in 1992. At the time of her deployment to Iraq in March 2004, she was working at Rotary, International. On November 12, 2004, she was piloting a Black Hawk helicopter north of Baghdad when it was hit by enemy fire. She lost both legs, one at the hip and one below the knee. Her left arm was also badly injured. After recuperating at Walter Reed, she returned home to Illinois and ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District seat in the U.S. Congress. Following her defeat, she was named by the Governor as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She is still active in the Illinois Army National Guard. Her husband, Brian Bowlsbey, is also a major in the Illinois Army National Guard and returned from a tour in Iraq earlier this year.
Erasmo Valles was born in southeast New Mexico where he worked in the crop fields as a kid. After graduating from high school, he joined the Marine Corps where he spent two years as a non-commissioned officer. After leaving the Marine Corps, he went to college in New Mexico and joined the Marines as a non commissioned officer in the 2nd Battalion at Twentynine Palms, California. In his first mission to Iraq in 2004, his humvee ran over an anti-tank mine, severely injuring both legs. He fought to save his left leg but finally made the decision to have it amputated in January 2005. He retired from the Marines and moved with his family to San Antonio, Texas. They are in the process of moving to League City, Texas near Houston where the local builder’s association is building them a home. He married Sandra Trujillo in 2000. They have three children. Ty is 17. Lorenzo is 3 years old and Tatianna is 1.
Manny Mendoza Valencia was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at a young age. He grew up in Booneville, California. His Army career as part of the 58th Engineer Company, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment included three years at Fort Irwin in New York and one year in Korea. In October 2004, while deployed to Iraq, the armored personnel carrier in which he was riding hit a I.E.D. planted on the side of the road. He lost both legs. Upon arriving at Walter Reed hospital, he told officials that his green card had expired while he was in Iraq. In December, he was given U.S. citizenship. Manny Mendoza Valencia now lives in San Ramon, California where he is a project manager for AT&&T.
Regardless of your perspective on the war, you should check it out. Click on the video camera icons on the left side to watch the 2005 interviews and on the right side to watch the 2008 interviews.