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ROTC cadets react to death toll

Like most, Mike Pettingill heard the news of America losing its 2,000th soldier in the Iraq war and felt some pain. But the USF Army ROTC Cadet Battalion Commander, who will probably end up in Iraq within months after he graduates in May, also felt something most probably did not.

“I was motivated,” he said.

Motivated because, if deployed to Iraq, Pettingill would probably oversee a platoon of soldiers.

News of Americans dying, he said, only reinforces his duty to protect them.

“If I take 45 soldiers out, I’m bringing 45 back,” he said.

When the 2,000th American soldier died, many members of USF’s Army ROTC, instructors included, believed the media blew out of proportion the significance of the number of American casualties.

“It’s a significant number because one death, you could argue, is one too many,” Army ROTC Commander Lt. Col. Jackson Self said. “But if you look at what we are accomplishing, we’ve done it with relatively minimal deaths. I think if you look at the long term and the big picture, there are some things that are worth fighting for and the country believes this is one of them.

“If you believe this is the right thing to do, then you’re going to have to accept the fact that casualties do come along with it.”

Many believe this is not the right thing to do and used the death milestone as rationale for paring the number of U.S. troops in the country or leaving Iraq altogether.

Self acknowledges and somewhat understands that argument.

“When numbers start getting higher and higher, people start re-evaluating if that’s what they believe in. It shouldn’t shake your beliefs.”

Cadet Capt. Taneshia Warren understands the importance of tracking the casualties of war.

She also understands why 2,000 American casualties in Iraq are newsworthy. But there’s one thing she doesn’t quite understand.

“You always hear about the bad stuff: the negative, the dying,” said Warren, a senior. “You never hear about the good things.”

The same day the 2,000th soldier died, Iraqis voted to pass a draft of the Iraqi constitution, considered by many as a major step in Iraq’s transition into democracy.

“And it was somewhat overshadowed,” Pettingill said.

For many, news of 2,000 dead Americans in Iraq was a grim reminder that things in Iraq are chaotic and uncontrollable.

“(The death toll) does have some relevancy, like is it worth it and so forth,” said senior Cadet Capt. Jarod Page.

Page said that he recently saw a documentary on Link TV, a commercial-free network that airs news and documentaries sans censorship.

“I watched a show about the occupation through the eyes of the Iraqis,” he said. “They showed all points of view: Iraqis that weren’t for the occupation and those that were. And it all came down to whether it was worth it. Most of (the Iraqis) said it was. This wasn’t on Fox News; it wasn’t coming from the Republican side. It opened my eyes.”

As of Monday, 2,026 Americans had been killed in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.

“There’s never anything gained without sacrifice,” Warren said.