In the basement of the College of Liberal Arts, a large mural depicts an anti-war scenario. An anti-war sentiment may make a soldier uncomfortable, especially in the case of Phillip Leslie, a Criminal Justice major who has been to both Kuwait and Iraq with the U.S. Army. Despite this, he is hard to offend.
So maybe the mural doesn't offend Phillip Leslie; nonetheless, he doesn't go into a long discussion about personal beliefs. When asked what he thought about calls for troop withdrawal, Leslie said, "I think it'd be a beautiful thing. I have friends still there, so the sooner they get home, the happier I'd be.” He isn't against the war or for it either. But he isn't done fighting for his country: being in the National Guard is a six-year commitment of one weekend every month and two weeks a year. It's just not as simple as the brushstrokes in the mural imply. Instead, with an expansive smile, Leslie says, "I just think it's hard no matter what."
Leslie will earn his Criminal Justice degree at the end of Winter Quarter. He is a confident and well-liked member of his academic major. He is on RIT’s basketball team, and plays center.
Separate from school, he is also a member of the National Guard, which he joined following his two tours overseas with the Army so that his duty would not take him overseas again. Leslie will not be placed in a war zone again anytime soon. However, while he was in the Army, he went to Kuwait from October through December 2002; and to Iraq from February 2003 to March 2004.
When he was in Kuwait, and later, Iraq, things were just gearing up, he said, in reference to the ground force military presence there. "Some things, like water and ice, had to be rationed. We were asked to limit our water to two or three one-liter bottles per day... [And] it's hot. Iraq is a lot like Kuwait. When there's a tree in the divide in the road, it's a palm tree surrounded by sand."
Leslie’s assignment was transportation. He drove a HET — a Heavy Equipment Transporter. These machines are huge; big enough to carry other enormous vehicles, such as tanks. Basically, says Leslie, he drove the tanks into place. "When they did raids on cities, we took the tanks to the outskirts of the city."
Leslie said he felt the reality of being in a war zone when his regiment crossed the border from Kuwait to Iraq. "There was a lot of gunfire and tanks shooting stuff up. Sometimes,” he said, “Improvised Exploding Devices would go off. For instance, an old tank shell would be put in the road, and would be detonated from a distance with a cell phone.”