National Infantry Museum hosts ‘Iraq War: 20 Year Retrospective’ symposium

Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 9:28 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:44 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It was March 20, 2003 when former President George W. Bush announced U.S. forces would invade Iraq to disarm weapons of mass destruction and ultimately end Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

The National Infantry Museum and Columbus State University invited the public to attend their “Iraq War: 20 Year Retrospective” symposium last weekend.

“I find it not just that I need to be here as a student, but as a prior enlisted soldier to be here as well,” said Willie Dupree Fee, Army veteran, Sgt. 1st Class.

Retired Army veteran Willie Dupree Fee served in the Army 20 years and did three tours in Iraq.

Fee is one of several attendees of “The Iraq War: A 20-Year Retrospective” symposium at the National Infantry Museum - the only site in the country honoring more than 7,000 service members killed during the Global War on terrorism.

“It’s a reflection on the past and it’s something that we shouldn’t forget because once you forget the things we’ve done in the past, you can’t project what we’re going to do in the future,” said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Dupree Fee.

The two-day panel offers a unique, open conversation about the controversial war from all angles, including success and failures of war - the strategy and character of war, the experience and even a veteran’s and Iraqi’s perspective of the war.

“It’s really gratifying to see people that I served with who have done well in the army and continue on, but it’s also a great opportunity for younger leaders,” said Command General David Perkins, former Commanding USA TRADOC.

In the audience, younger service members had the opportunity to hear from veterans and learn what to do if they are put in the same position as some of the panelists.

The discussion features 30 panelists and keynote speakers who are veterans, top scholars, active-duty members and Iraqi civilians. 15th Commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command General, David Perkins, is one of them.

Perkins’ message is to be prepared for the unpredictable.

“You’re never going to be able to choose where you go to war, where the conflict is going to occur,” said Command General David Perkins, former Commanding USA TRADOC. “It’s probably not where you think it’s going to happen and it’s probably not exactly where you have trained and you have to build that flexibility into your formation.”

“I’m just very grateful that we get to talk about this openly and very candidly,” said Katherine Samuelson, student research assistant at CSU.

Samuelson says the symposium shows her how limited the scope of what the military does is to a civilian.

“We know about Iraq, we know about places like this but we don’t see because it’s not in the cultural zeitgeist anymore,” said Samuelson.