Soldiers' Stories Statement
Former Lance Corporal West Chase, U.S. Marine Corps, Combat Service Support Company 113, I Marine Expeditionary Force, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with fiancée, Emily Peden;
Ann Arbor, MI,
May 2014
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print

When I was in Fallujah for the elections, we had to go through the city from site to site dropping people off. We were always on high alert because our convoys normally didn’t go through a whole lot of heavily populated areas. I was the most experienced person next to the staff NCO [non-commissioned officer]. He put me in charge. He said, “All right, Chase is in charge because he's already done one deployment. You guys are all fresh, new.” Having to constantly monitor them put me on edge all the time. I was in a constant state of alertness because we were in a crowded area.

When we were getting to one of the election sites and slowing down through a neighborhood, people were waving to us like, “Hi.” They were trying to be peaceful and friendly, like, “I'm friendly, don't shoot me.” This new kid was yelling, “F you! F you!,” and flicking them off. I told him that if I saw him doing that again, I would personally come back there and butt stroke him with my weapon. Because one, this is their neighborhood. Two, this is their country. Three, by being aggressive when they're not showing any signs of aggression or suspicion, you're putting your teammates’ lives at risk.

I'm always aware of my surroundings. I don't like crowds. I become very—not unnerved, but there's a sense of possible anger that comes out—or, I wouldn't say anger but I'm very alert and I'm very intolerant of how other people can be careless in a very crowded environment.

There was a football game. Everyone was going to the stadium—my fiancée and I were not, but the sidewalk is designed for both directions of walking. People were just walking five-people-wide, involved in their conversation. I understand that a sidewalk should be kind of like fifty-fifty, not one hundred-zero. At a certain point I got in front of her and I would actually stop in front of a group and let them part around us, or run into me, and I would shove them. The lack of consideration is what irritates me the most. So I will actually move people out of my way, but I'll say, “Excuse me” at the same time.

In combat you don't allow yourself to be scared, you don't allow yourself to be startled and you don’t let your emotions get the better of you. So now, trying to find a way to become emotionally involved in things is tricky. My fiancée says that I need to open up more. She’s not pushing me to but she says, “I'm not everyone else. I'm your person. You have to be able to open up to me.” I’ve never had that before, actually. She's very patient, which is lucky for me.

West Chase is currently studying consumer design at the University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design. This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in September and October 2013.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in April and May 2011.

© Jennifer Karady 2019, all rights reserved.