Mar 26, 2008

As Iraq war toll hits 4,000, ex-GI says media isn't telling the story

Don Bortz of Waterford served a year in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. As someone who follows events in Iraq and keeps track of former comrades-in-arms, the war is never far from his mind.

But this month, as the war entered its fifth year and the 4,000th American soldier was killed in combat -- 169 of those from Michigan -- he is frustrated with the lack of media coverage of the conflict and the impact that has on how Americans view the war.

“I think the media doesn’t like to cover things unless there is a big change or there is something they consider newsworthy,” he said. “For the soldiers it’s Groundhog Day -- every day is pretty much the same.”

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, only 3 percent of the news in February 2008 was devoted to covering the war, a statistic lamented by groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Like many Americans, Bortz enlisted in the military following the 9/11 attacks. After basic training he was immediately deployed for 11 months to a location he can't disclose. In 2005 he was sent to Iraq for 12 months. Although Bortz is against the war, he said only health problems stopped him from re-enlisting and going back to serve another tour in Iraq. However, his allegiance is to his fellow soldiers, not the mission.

“There are no greater bunch of guys than soldiers,” he said. “I just thought about how I would have felt if I didn’t go back, and a friend of mine was killed while I was sitting at home. I don’t think I could have lived with myself.”

Bortz is one of the many Iraq or Global War on Terror vets running for political office. He is a candidate for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. “There are a lot of problems with our state and country, and I want to help solve them,” he said.

For example, if elected, Bortz wants to help returning veterans further their education and adapt to civilian life, as the GI Bill did for returning vets of other wars. The GI Bill was been diluted steadily over the years, he says, and the result today is considerably fewer benefits and more red tape. He wants the county to provide free tuition to Oakland County Community College for Iraq vets.

“I talked to a lot of people about this idea, and it has been received well,” he said.

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