Vets call Iraq far cry from WWII

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Luther Hensley, whose father was in the National Guard's 214th unit in World War II, listens to Spc. Travis Nephew, who just returned from his first tour in Iraq on April 13.

When Alford Spires, Bill Britton, Edward "Press" Moody and Pete Tjovaras left Georgia in 1943 for World War II, they say, they knew their enemy.


As members of the Army's 214th Coast Artillery Anti Aircraft Regiment, they also knew their friends, and they have remained close, meeting regularly at Augusta's Sconyer's Barbecue.

"This group really bonded together," Mr. Britton said during a Thursday lunch. "We had the rich boys from the Hill mixed up with the Harrisburgers.

"To this day, we still look at each other as brothers."

Spc. Travis Nephew gets that.

He joined the group Thursday and is a member of the latest incarnation of the 214th, now the Georgia National Guard's 214th Headquarters Battery, out of Elberton.

After recent duty in Iraq, Spc. Nephew said he has made a few close friends that he hopes he's still kicking with 60 years from now.

But the 23-year-old said his war experiences in Iraq are very different from that of the World War II veterans who invited him to lunch.

For example, Spc. Nephew said, the rules of engagement in Iraq are different.

"You can't pull the trigger unless there's a weapon in your face," he told the old soldiers.

That was hard for Mr. Tjovaras to comprehend.

"With us, it was different. If they looked suspicious we could shoot them," he said.

Then there's the difficulty of fighting in a country where you don't know if the person approaching is an ally or an enemy.

"That's the biggest problem," said Spc. Nephew, who was stationed southeast of Baghdad in Annasiriyah. "We're not able to just identify who's who."

But the worst thing our country could do is simply quit and leave Iraq, Spc. Nephew said.

"Losing against a country like that where they have nothing anyway. ... We have to stay there and finish what we've started," he said.

And that's something the soldiers, young and old, share - a deep, patriotic sense of duty.

"We've got to win it," Mr. Tjovaras said. "For our country, we've got to win it."

Reach Amy Allyn Swann at (706) 823-3338 or


- The Senate on Thursday passed a war-funding bill that calls for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq beginning Oct. 1.

- Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday that overall violence hadn't fallen in Baghdad, despite increased U.S. troop presence.

- Bombers struck an Iraq army outpost north of Baghdad and civilian targets in the city as violence killed 72 people Thursday.

- Associated Press