MnChange Interviews Iraq Veteran Mike Salas

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We Are Change Minnesota
July 3rd, 2008


Salas: I’m Specialist Michael Salas. I was with the 1st Infantry Division stationed in Schweinfurt Germany—1st Battalion 18th Infantry. I was in Fallujah in 2003 to 2004. I was a 240 Bravo machine-gunner. I was involved in, like, over 1,500 combat patrols, and my whole thought about the insurgency is this—is if a nation came to America and tried to take over their country, we’d fight back too. And now that’s not to say that there’s people over there that ain’t real “insurgents” but I can tell you that I was involved in so many house-to-house searches where it came up with nothing but scaring the hell out of people and I got tired of going into peoples’ houses—they’re fuckin’ screaming, you know—we gotta take the people down, separate the women and the children… “Oh shit, sorry, wrong house—next house!” you know, it’s just fuckin’ madness. I mean, I lost four of my buddies in a convoy attack, and you know what, I get back and I think, “What did they die for? They’re dying for nothing. There’s no terrorism. The only terrorist is, you know, the government—terrorizing us.”

Brian: The media here is portraying us as liberators, I mean, are people really happy to see our presence over there, are they really, you know, thanking us or…?

Salas: You know, you gotta think about it—are they happy or afraid? Are they afraid, I mean they don’t know when we’re going to bust into their house. There’s no house that’s exempt—there’s no… nothing that we won’t do over there really, I mean, like I said I’m sure just like in our country there’s bad, you know, that I’m sure if a nation came to invade us they’d try to get rid of the “bad” here, and just like there’s “bad” over there… but you know what, I don’t think that they’re happy to see me. I never felt welcome or like I was doing something important or, you know, but you gotta think that some guys in the military really believe that they’re part of something special and they want to be part of something special so they get in that mindset that they’re doing something good but… you know, honestly, when I see the news and it makes me sick and… because I can’t stand them, you know, making this out to be such a grand, awesome thing we’re doing and we’re saving the world from terrorists because where was the care about terrorism, you know, before 9/11? Was it all just non-existent then? And all of a sudden it just popped up? That’s what I don’t understand, and I don’t know, I just think it’s ridiculous.

Brian: I think it’s definitely very alarming that the suicide statistics of the military personnel are coming back and having, you know, all these issues with suicide and manic depression and it’s tearing families apart. Any comments on that? I mean your fellow soldiers…

Anthony: And in your own life, I mean, you obviously said were shot… I mean, how was it… I mean, you say you hear children screaming, what is it… what is it like, I mean is it hard to every day you’re…

Salas: Well, I tried to get treated for PTSD but they claimed that I was lying to try to get money from the government. So, I can’t really… I’ve like, exhausted that attempt to get compensation for that. Right now, all I get is a hundred dollars from the military for my injury sustained in Iraq. And, um…

Anthony: A hundred bucks… like a month?

Salas: A hundred a month—that’s it. And the rest… so, I’m living with my mother. Hah, what can I say? And…

Anthony: You got shot in the back in combat…

Salas: Yeah, and it’s “not service related”… as of yet, they’ve said…

Jamie: Would you possibly be willing to share that story with us about your injury, about what happened?

Salas: How did it occur?

Jamie: Yeah, what was the situation and the circumstances surrounding that?

Salas: Yeah, I can give you uh…

Anthony: You were obviously on service. You were in a different country, right? How could they claim that it’s…

Salas: Yeah, I mean how detailed you… I mean what happened was, we were going down this street in Fallujah and, uh…

Jamie: Sorry to interrupt you but, the way that the presented it. The news and the way the media presented it was, “the battle for Fallujah” is gonna begin and it was like an epic battle that was about to begin… were you part of that?

Salas: Yeah, with the marines. It was house-to-house fighting and what happened was we were going down this alley and whatever with tanks and humvees and whatever and we were behind this building and as we were going to have, cross to the other side of the street and so as you crossed to the other side of the street you watch, you know, … while a guy runs. So, two guys ran, you know, my buddy was starting to run across the street and a grenade went off and blew off his legs… blew off his legs and he’s laying in the middle of the street, and uh, I like, this was my best friend so I like I’m panicking and shit and uh, I’m not even thinking about anything else, so I just ran out and grabbed him on the side of his vest—on the back of his vest and as I bent down my… I can even show you if you want… It’s not that.. It’s a scar right here… if you can see that, I don’t know. So here’s the funny part. As I bent down to grab my buddy, my vest separates from my back—lifts up, he saw me and he shot me right there—that’s how they got me and I first thought it was a piece of rock that hit me. So, I was still going. I dragged my buddy over to the side of the road and we continued on—I got in a humvee and that’s when the adrenaline wore off and I couldn’t walk anymore, and I was paralyzed for six months. Through physical therapy is how I got able to walk again, but so, I mean that’s how that happened… but it’s kinda funny, you know—the vest separates from the pants and… he must’ve been watching me, yeah! It was an AK bullet.

Salas: I can even say this: my buddy is a Ranger—a green beret—and they’re already in Iran securing oil fields, preparing for an invasion to come. My buddy’s in the Rangers and he told me not to say, but, you know what, I see on the news, they’re saying you know sooner and sooner…

Brian: They’ve been really talking about it for the last year now.

Salas: Then Special Forces, man, they go before… you know… Iraq before “Shock and Awe” you know, I mean you could probably talk to somebody who was over there and it’s all for the people who… the elite I believe, you know, their money and their interests and, you know that whole one percent, you know and it’s like what the hell do they need all this shit for and… leave us alone, I don’t get it. I don’t get what the point is. If they own everything in the whole fuckin’ world, what do they need with our lives for? And that’s my point on it and I have no problem fighting the war that’s just, but staging shit to make us go over there, I mean that’s good in theory but now that we’re all waking up you know they’re going to have to change their tactics so I don’t think that the next thing that’s going to come will probably be a terrorist attack on America. Terrorism… in quotations. It’ll be some other shit, you know, and that’s scary to me because what are they going to do—Chemically attack us all? And, I mean, that’s my opinion on that and I think this war is ridiculous.

Anthony: So it’d be safe to say that you believe that the American public was lied to to justify a war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Salas: Absolutely, yeah, because like they said, you know, they need to get everyone together for a cause. And, it worked for a little bit—you see everyone with the flag and shit.

Brian: The patriotic bug…?

Salas: Yeah, and you know what now they’re seeing, you know, that it’s bullshit and that only thing we hear about the war is, you know, the people that they want to say good things about it on the news. You don’t hear guys like me or my buddies or my fuckin’ friend who lost a leg and ain’t gettin’ paid by the V.A. because they said his injuries weren’t service related. Where the hell did he lose his leg at? I mean, it’s just madness man, I dunno. I dunno what to say but…

Jamie: Do you think that some of the pressure of actually going out on some of the missions that you guys went on… like some of these guys that you said that maybe actually started to enjoy what they were doing. Do you think maybe they grew so adapted to what they were doing that it was maybe going past the point of just the mission itself? I mean, do you think that…

Salas: I think you kinda get into that mode when, you know, you get the fear of, like, I remember all of the time—that I was a machine gunner—that I was getting the feeling I was going to get shot at, you know, any time and that kind of stress, man, you gotta either let it overtake you or just go with it and, you know, get all “RRR” you know, and I think some guys just like think the tougher they appear… maybe that helps them inside. I mean, I don’t know, you know so they go out and they just try to shoot up everything and kill things, you know and besides, you know… the soldiers are trying to impress each-other, you know, and so they want to, “ah man, I blew this mother fucker’s head off,” and all this, you know and, like I said I don’t believe in murdering nobody, and the people that are really trying to kill us soldiers, then you know, let ‘em have it but, most shit over there I’ve seen and I was participating in, like busting into houses and all that, I… I can’t agree with that because you know what, I don’t like hearing children screaming because we’re interrupting their sleep to find out that it’s the wrong house… every time!

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