CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — For some time, Kelli McQuary, 13, wondered why people protested against the Iraq war and spoke ill of the military.
As the daughter of a Marine, Kelli said it was hard to understand the negative sentiment of those who she said didn’t know what it feels like to worry about the possibility of their dad being killed, or the sacrifices servicemembers make.
"You turn on the TV and you see it. Why can people hate something so wonderful? It’s a privilege to be in the military," she said.
So, Kelli asked a higher authority, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Neller, for some clarification.
"I just don’t think they understand," Neller told Kelli. "They’re misguided or have received misinformation." Neller, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, fielded questions from teens Friday dur-ing a Teen LINKS program aimed at helping young people connect and share their military experiences.
He spoke candidly with the group, answering questions from retirement to whether he’d ever been involved in a gun battle and what his priorities for the military would be if he were president.
He also shared hardships his three children faced growing up in the service.
Public high school was hard for his daughter, Neller said.
"There were some really mean girls, just like you see on TV," he said. "But she went onto college and got a good job."
Neller said the teens should take pride in their military lifestyle and the challenges and adventures it presents.
"You should be very proud you’re a Marine kid, it’s not easy," he said.
Neller said while Friday’s program was a success, he worried about at-risk teens who were noticeably absent from the group.
"The teens that aren’t here are the ones I’m concerned about most," he told the group.
Neller said young dependents need to take action and embrace the activities the Marine bases offer to help.
"There’s plenty of things to do that are constructive and safe," he said.
Neller also said he would like to see an increase in younger Marines mentoring and participating in activities with the youth.
"We need to educate the Marines about reaching out," he said. "We probably need to press that."