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May 5, 2012 at 7:30 AM
A chance meeting with three U.S. Army troops in an airport concourse led to one of the most fascinating series of interviews in my 25 years of reporting. These three shared their unbridled opinions on everything from America’s two most recent wartime presidents to why they choose to serve.
INDIANAPOLIS — Words flow off the tongue of U.S. Army Sergeant Jeremy Hansel like water from the fountain he drank from Friday at Indianapolis International Airport.
Here in Indiana, he said, “we vote for the man, not the party.” To hear this 13-year Army veteran tell it, Tuesday’s hotly contested Republican primary between six-term incumbent Dick Lugar and Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock is exaggerated political theater that Hansel said diminishes the theater of war. He is a registered Democrat harshly critical of President Obama for whom he voted four years ago.
“I’d rather save households [of unemployed Americans] than be president of the United States,” said Hansel, your prototype no-frills infantry sergeant so often portrayed in the movies. “I have a hard time agreeing with this withdrawal from Iraq ordered by the president. If some 80-year-old senator [Lugar] can keep us fighting for what’s right over in Afghanistan or Iraq, then that’s enough to get my vote.”
A pack-a-day smoker with 13 tattoos – “One for every year I’ve been in the Army,” he joked – Hansel has a work ethic as blue as his language. He was among the first troops to cross the border into Iraq during the March 2003 invasion.
“I’m desperate to go back even after three tours,” said Hansel, nodding toward Army Private First Class Jamie Bachur. “And so is she.” Bachur grabs a water bottle and playfully bonks her superior on his arm.
“I personally hate politics. I just want to go overseas to join the fight to be part of a bigger picture,” said Bachur, a staunch Republican whose parents met as active duty Army veterans themselves. Like Hansel, she is anxious to exonerate the legacy of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.