Vet profile: Iraq War veteran surprised by poverty in oil-rich Iraq
By DEBORAH HIGHLAND | Bowling Green Daily News via AP | Published: January 7, 2018
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — After growing up in a small town and while looking for a career instead of a job, Cary Hood decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1984.
Hood had been working at a local soft drink bottling company and decided he needed to find something different to support his wife and daughter.
"I come from a military background," Hood said. "My dad was in the military. I was working 60 hours a week and I didn't really see a future at RC and that seemed to be my best recourse to find a career."
His father served in the U.S. Army, and Hood decided to try a different branch.
"The Marines are known to have bases around beaches and I had never seen the ocean," he said.
Hood signed up in 1984 and completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in Port Royal, South Carolina. He was interested in electronics and became a ground radar technician.
"I fixed the radar systems that detected artillery rounds," Hood said. "I was a career planner for a little while. But I maintained that MOS (military occupational specialty) throughout.
"In '84, electronics were the big thing," Hood said. "I thought I was making a wise decision. I didn't know they were going to become so popular that they would become throwaway items instead of people fixing them."
In the early 2000s, Hood was shipped overseas as part of the invasion force in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It was different," Hood said. "We had overwhelming force. The logistics was the hardest part. We had everything there. Getting what you needed where you needed it was the hard part.
"The staging area was so small. They didn't want everybody knowing where all the forces were," Hood said.
Extra parts were not needed as much as bullets and Meals Ready to Eat called MREs.
Beans, bullets and Band-Aids were the items the troops most talked about needing, he said.
During his service in a combat zone, Hood saw the effects of war.
"For me personally I saw a lot of aftermath," he said. "The Air Force dropped bombs first. The artillery rounds would shoot. Then the grunts would go in. Then we would go in. So we would see the aftermath. We got a few sniper rounds, but most of the action was over with and we just saw the aftermath. That was different for sure.
"I think what surprised me most was how poor the country was. I thought it was a rich country. The average Iraqi lived pretty bad. I saw people drinking water that I would be afraid to walk in," Hood said.
Once the troop movement began, he said, it was just a short time later that the regime of then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein came crumbling down.
As troops left, Hood fondly recalls the faces of the children in Iraq.
"It's the kids' faces I remember," he said. "I felt like I was in a parade when we were leaving. All the kids would come out. We would throw them the candy out of our MREs. That was happy and sad to see that," he said.
"I'm glad I went. I wouldn't volunteer to go back. I'm too old for that now," Hood said.
Hood remained in the Marines for 20 years.
"I think what it taught me the most was the ability to work with different personalities within the United States for sure and even throughout the world. I grew up in Glasgow. I didn't know about the city life. You meet people from all these different places. That's what I cherish most about the military was the diversity of people I met. And all the new recipes, foods I didn't know existed in Glasgow," Hood said.
While in the military, Hood served in California and Georgia and traveled to Japan, Hawaii, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Hood retired from the military in 2004 and he and his wife wanted to return home to southcentral Kentucky. They waited for their daughter to finish college and moved back to this area in 2007. Hood has been working as a deputy at the Warren County Regional Jail since returning to Kentucky.
The Marines taught him discipline, how and when to follow and lead and how to engage with a variety of personalities.
"One of the main things the military teaches you is leadership," Hood said. "That teaches you how to follow. It teaches teamwork. Everybody knows what has to be done and if it's your job to do it, you just do it.
"It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. They basically taught you that if you are asked to do something, you don't question it. You just get it done."