An American soldier journeys to the ‘good fight’ in Libya
One day in April, Jerry Erwin went online at home and purchased an airline ticket. Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.
It was not exactly a planned trip. But neither was it impulsive.
He acted after watching weeks of coverage of the Libyan war. Erwin, 46, was especially struck by the images of amateur rebels fighting the professional army of strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Everyone thought the rebels would get slaughtered, that they had no chance of victory.
Erwin knew then he had to go; to play a part, however small, in helping them win. He had prepared for war all his life, after all. And never fought in one.
Libya would be his big chance to defend the American ideals in which he believed. Freedom. Democracy. Equality.
“Gadhafi was a real bad guy,” he thought. “Why don’t I get a passport and head over there?”
With little luggage and a lot of theoretical knowledge, Erwin left his home in the northwestern United States (he did not want everyone to know where he lives), arrived in Turkey, made his way to Egypt and eventually crossed the border into eastern Libya. He arrived in Benghazi May 13. He found what he had expected — and worse.
He was about to embark on a life-changing experience.
They didn’t know about foxholes
His entire life, Jerry Erwin felt ready for war.
He grew steely strong after his mother died when he was 10 and he landed in California’s foster care system. Before he earned a high school diploma, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained in air assault operations with the storied 101st Airborne Division.
Later, in the Army Reserve, he specialized in counterintelligence and strategic analysis.
The beefy soldier of Scotch-Irish descent said he felt the battlefield calling but he was never deployed in America’s latest wars.
Besides, he had reservations about the U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in Libya, the situation was crystal clear to Erwin. Gadhafi had to go. To him, it was like ridding the world of Adolf Hitler.
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