Christopher LeJeune spent a year in Iraq with the Utah Army National Guard in 2003-04 and came home, with a 60 percent disability because of post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss. He wanted to leave the military alone for a while. "I was in a bad place," the Taylorsville resident and father of four said.
He came away from Iraq feeling like the military effort there had been accomplished and that the rebuilding work, although essential, was not the military's job. "They need good, clean water, good electricity. But these are not the jobs of tank gunners and Bradley drivers and artillerymen," he said. U.S. forces, he believes, need to be in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is where the real fight is, the guys that really attacked us on 9/11. We have 360,000 Americans tied up in Iraq. It's all of our resources, all of our money."
LeJeune said he would "love to see a withdrawal from Iraq and a real focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan, what have you," he said. "The forgotten war there is still raging and they don't have the resources because we're tied up in Iraq."
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida "have gained strength, as we pulled resources from Afghanistan. Not only has this war devastated our national security, but it has devastated the people of Utah."
His mind set developed into a desire to affiliate with like-minded veterans, so he went looking online at different veterans organizations. "I looked at a bunch of them. Some I didn't agree with; some were too radical from my point of view." Eventually he found common ground with the group votevets.org, and is now the organization's state captain.
He has since traveled to Washington, D.C., lobbying senators and congressmen on veterans issues. "You've got a lot of congressmen out there that don't have any idea, really, what's going on," he said.LeJeune said he joined the Army in 1998 as an infantryman. He left active duty in June 2002 and joined the Utah Army National Guard, where he deployed with the 1457th Engineer Combat Battalion in February 2003.