Iraq War: Two Views In Military

From flag-flying supporters to angry protesters, it seems just about everybody has an opinion about U.S. involvement in Iraq. So to take a closer look, The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy headed right to the Ohio heartland to speak with two military families with very personal views of the war.

OnMarch 19, 2003, President Bush told the nation, "At this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations..."

By then, husband-and-wife Blackhawk pilots Katrina and Tyler Lewison had already been deployed. As members of the 101st Airborne, they were among the first troops to go - and the last to return, coming home just last month.

Katrina Lewison says, "There's so many things you miss back home. I missed my sisters' wedding. You miss your friends having kids. Those things are hard to miss."

Iraq is exactly the kind of mission the two have trained for since meeting during their first year at West Point.

Tyler Lewison says, "My battalion was an air assault battalion. They'd take a lot of helicopters and pick up a whole bunch of infantry soldiers and then move them deep into enemy territory."

Katrina's regiment helped with reconaissance and moving supplies at the beginning of the war. After the fall of Baghdad, they both worked with Iraqis to rebuild the country.

Katrina notes, "We were making their lives just a little bit better and they weren't living in terror anymore. Then, it was the right thing to do to be over there."

While polls show almost half the country opposes the war; the Lewisons aren't in that half.

Tyler Lewison explains, "One person can do something bad and it makes the news, but 1000 people can be overjoyed by getting a helping hand and unfortunately you don't hear about that."

The Lewisons say they were overwhelmed by the support they received from people back home.

Katrina says, "People were sending letters from different grade schools, universities, Rotary clubs, and these people were great."

They especialy wanted to personally thank a group of volunteer firefighters from Orville, Ohio, who adopted the couple, sending them care packages throughout the war.

"You guys were amazing," Katrina says. "You sent us these huge boxes."

And one firefighter replies, "We really thought a lot of you guys - what you were doing over there for us."

The Lewisons returned to a hero's welcome. So did Staff Sgt. Sean Landrus - only his homecoming was markedly different.

His daughter, Khrista, is only twelve years old, but she had already seen her dad deployed four times.

His farewell was very emotional, she says. "He came down to the living room and I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. They got a picture of him in his BDUs and he left. That was the last time I ever saw him."

Landrus left his family just five weeks after his third child was born. Everybody worried about him, including his parents.

His mother, Betty Landrus, says of his assignment, "He mainly searched out and destroyed landmines and that sort of thing."

It was an ambush near Khalidiyah that took their son's life. CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reported, "The first blast hit a passing U.S. convoy. The second went off as reinforcements arrived."

Three other soldiers traveling with Landrus died in the attack. First reports were that Landrus was injured, but would survive. For two days, his family went through an agonizing search for information.

Khrista says, "We called to Germany, we called to Fort Riley, everywhere we could, to get information to where he was, and he never left Baghdad until he was dead."

He died two days after the ambush.

Clutching a letter addressed to her son, Betty Landrus says, "This was Sean's birthday card that I sent to him. I got home yesterday and it had come back. Said it was unclaimed and marked deceased. He died five days after his birthday."

Landrus' death has only strengthened his family's feelings about a war they never supported.

Betty Landrus says, "I know we like to think we're the big country that can solve everyone's problem, but we have to take care of some of our own first."

Her husband, Ken, adds, "I do think it's a waste of life. Like I said, I think Bush had more sympathy for his dog he put to sleep than he does the kids getting killed."

Khrista doesn't understand the politics of war, but she does understand the pain.

She says, "I'd give up everything just to have one call to him."

One war, two families, and two opinions. And they are not alone. The latest CBS News pollsays a majority of Americans, 58 percent, think the U.S. did the right thing going to Iraq.
  • Tatiana Morales

Comments