"I'm going to tell my stories, but understand - I was naive," began Bryan Casler. "I'm going to tell you stories as they were, and they're shameful stories, but I'm going to tell you my development of my feelings through my military career."
Casler was one of three veterans to address the Syracuse Peace Council on Saturday, along with WWII veteran Sam Feld and VietNam vet Joe Heath. In an "Iraq veterans against the war," t-shirt, the 2002 West Genesee graduate and Camillus native shared with a full room how and why he joined the military, what he experienced during his four years overseas, and why he had taken a stance against the war.
The decision to join
Casler said although he knew his family was "willing to go into debt" for him to attend college, he pushed the idea aside before his senior year of high school, making the decision to enlist in the armed forces after graduation.
" I have a pretty intense personality, and when I was looking at what service to join, it was the Marine Corps, hands down, as being the most intense and involved force in my eyes," he said. "And there was no recruiting process - I went to the recruiter and I told him I want to join the Marine Corps, I want infantry... I want to be the guy with a rifle and I want to lead a team of guys into combat."
In August 2002, not yet a year after 9/11, Casler was sent to boot camp, though he said the attack had not impacted his decision to enlist, "there was no doubt at this point as an infantry marine we were going to go to Iraq."
Throughout three months of boot camp and the following three months of infantry school, Casler said he waited for the "weeding out process" to begin, expecting there to be only the elite few worthy of becoming Marines at the end of the training. During infantry school, he realized the type of personality that excelled was 29