Andrew Holmes was sentenced to seven years in prison on Sept. 23 for his part in the murder of innocent Afghani civilians while deployed with the 5th Stryker Brigade, now renamed the 2nd Stryker Brigade. Three civilians were killed for sport while his unit was stationed in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan in Jan., Feb. and May of 2010. Private First Class Holmes confessed in court that he fired a heavy machine gun at an unarmed boy, according to the Associated Press. The boy had already been startled by a grenade his platoon mate had thrown at him when Holmes fired at him.
After coming to a deal with prosecutors, Holmes plead guilty to murder by an inherently dangerous act, smoking hashish, as well as keeping a finger bone from his victim as a war trophy. Lieutenant Colonel Kwasi Hawks, the officer presiding over the case, handed down the reduced sentence of seven years to Andrew Holmes, whose family cried as they heard the sentence. Hawks originally had wanted to give Holmes 15 years, according to the Associated Press, but was “restrained by the agreement” that Holmes had made with the prosecutors.
Four other soldiers are also being charged with murder, among other heinous crimes. Three innocent people were killed by the five soldiers, and some of them kept body parts they cut off of the people they killed. They also took photos with the corpses, posing over them as if they were game.
Soldiers committing atrocities this extreme gives the Army more than a black eye; it straight up beats the hell out of it. Support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is waning; according to a July report by ABC News, only 43 percent of Americans feel that the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting.
With support slipping away, the last thing soldiers need are scandals like this. War crimes not only hurt the reputation of our military, they affect how people look at soldiers on an individual basis.
For many soldiers the military is not a permanent career, and with the United States in a recession many former soldiers find themselves in an uncertain job market. These murderers who do not deserve the title of “soldier” could change the way people view all soldiers. This causes me great concern, and I am not alone. Other former soldiers on the University of Tampa campus are sounding off on what they think about these soldiers and how they think Holmes and his co-defendants trophy killings will change public opinion on the war, and on our soldiers.
Damon Meixsell, an allied health major in his senior year, joined the army in 2004 and left Philadelphia behind while he spent nearly four and a half years in the army as an infantryman. He spent about half his time in Iraq, doing a twelve and then a fifteen month tour with the 101st Airborne Division.
With 27 months overseas, boredom is not something new to him, but he feels what Idaho native Andrew Holmes did was seriously messed up.
“I can’t believe that these guys did this, I am seriously pissed about it. These men definitely have something wrong with them…I would like to see a longer sentence.”
Damon also believes that support will drop further as a result of war crimes like these. He doesn’t want to see every soldier harmed by the acts of sick people.
“People shouldn’t judge the military based on an isolated incident like this. It would be like inner-city Detroit being the world’s view of America.”
Another soldier with two combat deployments, Steven Acosta, feels similarly to Damon. Acosta is a freshman at UT majoring in management, and has been deployed to Iraq two separate times with the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, NY. “I think the general public will classify all military that way, they will think everyone is like that who serves.”
Acosta also said that he thinks it will affect the conflicts approval rating as well.
“I believe that certain politicians will use this to bolster support for ending the war. I just don’t want people to judge the rest of the army for the actions of five men. There was definiwtely a lack of discipline and leadership that led to this happening, but not all soldiers are like these men. These men are lunatics.”
What Andrew Holmes and his fellow soldiers did in Afghanistan during their 2010 deployment is despicable. What motivated these men to kill innocent people for fun is beyond my comprehension, and I can only conclude that these “people” are seriously ill. That being said, I feel that seven years is nowhere near enough time for Holmes or any of the accused soldiers to be behind bars.
Put yourself in the shoes of a young Afghani boy: US soldiers are always driving around in loud heavy vehicles, and shootouts are a normal occurrence. Another patrol of soldiers comes toward you, and suddenly an explosion goes off. Dust, smoke and debris fills the air, and the concussion of the explosion has dazed you. The sound of machine gun fire rings out, and you suddenly feel a burning sensation in several parts of your body. Falling to the ground, everything fades to black as you die in a pool of your own blood. Soldiers with US flags on their arms walk up to your corpse to pose behind it, laughing with each other.
That’s a terribly sad and disturbing image, and these “soldiers” deserve much more punishment than they will receive. Deployments are hard on people, I know. Spending months in a hostile environment is enough to drive anyone a little crazy, but what these men did is inexcusable and horrendous.
As far as public opinion of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I just hope that people never forget what our soldiers do. They follow the orders they are given by their country, and they do it with nothing but the best intentions for their country.
The men and women of our armed services always deserve our support, because no matter where they are fighting, they are always fighting for the United States, for us.
David Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org