Parkite welcomed home from Iraq | ParkRecord.com

Parkite welcomed home from Iraq

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

He won’t discuss red states or blue, George W. Bush or whether the U.S. should have invaded Iraq, but Parkite Michael Murley insists soldiers are progressing toward establishment of a strong democracy in the Middle East.

"Like everyone else, a lot of my beliefs before I left came from the media, what you see on CNN and MSNBC," said the 20-year-old Park City High School graduate who returned home Veterans Day after a 12-month tour in Iraq. "That’s not exactly how it works. Though people are dying left and right, people are going on with their lives."

Murley, a communications officer with the 144th Area Support Medical Company, spoke Thursday about Sunnis and Shiites, the insurgency and what shrapnel from an improvised explosive device does to the body.

"The biggest question everyone wants to know is, ‘Do you see progression? Do you see things getting better and do you think we’re going to get out of the war?’" he said. "It’s step by step. It’s not just going to miraculously be better one day."

Responsible for keeping soldiers on the battlefield in touch with bases in southern Iraq, Murley worked near medics who were treating injured Americans.

"It’s definitely eye opening," he said, adding that the wounds showed "the devastation of the war and what could happen."

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Still, he stressed that the U.S. cannot cut and run from Iraq.

Having watched Iraqi soldiers being trained for battle by members of his Army National Guard unit, Murley says "it’s progressing a lot better than it’s sometimes portrayed back here."

"We had 13 guys from our unit from Utah that were out there training Iraqi military," he said, adding that construction of infrastructure like roads was robust. "For a lot of those guys, they work as hard as they can and they care a lot about the mission. They’re not in the Army because we’re going to war and they’re not in the Army because Bush is president, it has nothing to do with that."

Too young to drink

Parkite Craig Murley praised his son this week for successfully completing his tour.

"Too young to get a cocktail, he’s already a vet," the proud father said.

Murley joined the National Guard as a junior in high school to jumpstart his military career. He shipped off to Iraq after graduating in 2004.

"I wasn’t really too worried about it," Murley said calling his military superiors "surprisingly high-caliber people." "It’s cool to see how good their equipment is and how knowledgeable people are about it."

Troop morale was high when he left the war, said Murley who has no immediate plans to return to Iraq.

"But everybody has their good and bad days," he said. "We’d have a couple stressful days every here and there but we always managed to work through them and accomplish whatever mission we had at the time."

Soldiers may struggle most with homesickness, Murley said, adding, "You learn to strengthen communication."

Different strokes

"Everybody has their right to think whatever they want and that’s the whole point of the Army," Murley said about the rift that splits many Americans and Iraqis philosophically. "The religion one is a huge one just because the ideologies are so different between the United States and Iraq. If you let those things get in the way it’s going to cloud the whole mission."

But reporters exaggerate the divisions between factions in Iraq, he claimed.

"Pretty much that Sunni-Shiite division, it would be on the level of a Republican and a Democrat," Murley explained. "There’s the extremist Democrats, the extremist Republicans, the extremist Catholics and the extremist Mormons. I think it’s kind of blown of out proportion."

‘It’s not ready to be turned over’

The geopolitical importance of the Middle East to the rest of the world means the U.S. can’t leave Iraq until the mission is finished, according to Murley.

"It’s going to play a big role in the future. Whether you think the war was right or wrong, we’re already there and have made the commitment to make something happen," he said. "The mission is not as bad as people think it is."

"A lot people don’t think it is going to work and I think that’s unfortunate for the Iraqis."