Student Spotlight on Steele Osborne
June 15, 2017
“You’re not the same anymore. You’re a different person when you go and come back, you’re not the same,” said former platoon sergeant Steele Osborn, on his experience in the military.
A career of military service to our glorious country sounded appealing to a twenty-year-old roofer living in Florida. Unsatisfied with where his life was headed, Steele Osborn responded to a call from an army recruiter in 2004, and was told that his ASVAB entry exam scores were such that he was qualified for any position in the army. However, he also learned that he was color-blind, and that because of this he would not be qualified to do anything other than “wash somebody’s clothes”. Then he learned of a waiver he could get to become a truck driver in Iraq – something the military desperately needed at the time, proved by a $7000 bonus supplied to Osborn. Looking back, he suspects it was all a ploy to convince him to fill the trucking position.
Osborn was deployed to Iraq almost immediately, and spent three consecutive thanksgivings there. “Holidays don’t mean s--- to me. When you’re working on every single holiday and you’re away from your family on Christmas, when you’re away from your family on thanksgiving, so what.”
While in Iraq the first year, he didn’t have a lot of time to reminisce of holidays past with his family. He said, “the mission comes first – the only important thing is your mission, that’s it. Your feelings and stuff like that aren’t important. It’s just another day.” Before he left, Thanksgiving had been his favorite holiday.
However, his attitude about holidays wasn’t the only thing that changed. After he returned from military service, Osborn found it difficult to connect with people, and still has trouble being able to trust others. “Now you see the evil in people. You don’t see the good, you see the bad, even if it’s not there, and that’s the problem.” He also admitted that if he weren’t attending school, he would just lock himself away. “It bothers me that I can’t shut it off, that I’m never gonna be that person again”
Since his return from Iraq, Osborn has become more cynical about the motivation behind engaging in wars. “I don’t believe in America as much as I use to. I believe that what we’re fighting for isn’t right. I don’t think we’ve helped anybody, and a lot of American lives have been wasted for nothing.” He believes that wars are just a front for government powers to make money, and that we aren’t actually solving anything. “Poor people die, rich people make more money.”
He said that if he had known about this while serving, that he wouldn’t have cared about fighting for his country. He developed a belief that a soldier is blinded to reality as soon as you put on the uniform, and there is this vision that a solider is, “something great, something you wanted to be, you’re doing great things for your country [when] realistically, all you are is just a little pawn in a game.”
He now regrets the things he did while in he was stationed in Iraq. “I feel like I went there for nothing. I feel ashamed that I even went and did the stuff that I did, and was proud of what I did. I feel like I was robbed of my innocence.”
It was his experience that soldiers often don’t want to see the reality of how they are affecting the Iraqi citizens. He remembered one particular day when he was traveling in a convoy of military vehicles down the road. Civilian cars are not allowed on the roads with the military convoys, so they have to pull over and wait for them to pass. Some of the civilians started giving them trouble about this, and one of the soldiers broke protocol and shot a warning shot with a 50-calibur gun. It then ricocheted into an Iraqi driver’s head, killing him and forcing his car into a ditch.
At the time, Osborn was irritated because the convoy then had to wait for the Iraqi police to show up before they could continue. “It makes me sick to my stomach that I cared more that it took time out of my day than the fact we just killed somebody for no reason. I feel like we never should have been there in the first place.”