Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chris Lucas returned to Clovis last week from a tour in Iraq. The experience impacted his life in a positive way, and he welcomes the chance to go back again, he said. (Courtesy photo)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
Lance Cpl. Chris Lucas returned from his eight months in Iraq convinced U.S. military efforts are making a difference in the violence-torn country.
The majority of Iraqis he encountered during his tour as a logistic systems vehicle operator embrace the military presence and are invested in making their country better, said Lucas, who joined the Marine Reserves to help pay for his college education.
“I was patriotic before I left, but now that I’m back the national anthem means a lot more to me now,” the Clovis High graduate said. “Hearing about protesters makes me more sick now. They have no clue what we’re doing over there.”
Four and a half years into his six-year commitment, Lucas said he volunteered for the duty after his Lubbock-based unit was activated.
Lucas said he logged more than 11,000 miles on 80-plus convoys with his unit stationed out of forward operating base Al Taqadoum in eastern Iraq. They passed through areas such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad, he said, transporting troops and supplies throughout the ravaged countryside.
“You get so used to those roads you know if the slightest thing is off, like a rock pile (that wasn’t there before),” he said, recalling on one convoy he counted 633 holes along the road caused by improvised explosive devices.
A junior business major at Eastern New Mexico University, Lucas said he plans to volunteer for another tour in Iraq in the next 18 months.
“It makes me proud to live here. It opened my eyes to see what I’m thankful for and what I take for granted,” he said.
Riene Wyatt greeted her 23-year-old son Thursday in Lubbock. She said standing in the place of the youthful college student who had gone off to war was a self-assured young adult.
“Even though he came back from a place like that, he seems like he has more of a sense of purpose and peace about him,” Wyatt said. “It made a man out of him.”
While it will probably mean more nail-bitting, Wyatt said she is prepared to stand behind her son in his choices.
“Even though I was worried sick, in the back of my head, I know he’s conscientious and I knew he was going to be doing his job right. I just care about my son. I’m glad he’s back and whatever he wants to do, I’ll support,” she said.