Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

West Chester University Theater Arts student, Michael Rothermel, who just returned from one year in Iraq presented his story entitled “New Freedom: A story of Iraq & an American Soldier,” to an audience in the Philips Autograph Library in Philips Memorial Building on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006 at 7:30 p.m.Approximately 50 of Rothermel’s fellow students, professors, friends, family and West Chester residences were in attendance to watch his presentation which included discussion, video and pictures.

A heroic war ballad played on the stereo with an image on screen of a cement wall covered in barbed wire which read, “All Americans army will dies in Iraq ground,” as people filed in a took their seats. Rothermel opened his presentation with this image describing it as his “welcome mat” when he crossed the border of Kuwait and Iraq.

Rothermel was the team Sergeant of a four man team, the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. His team leader, SSG John Imperato, along with two other soldiers deployed in September of 2004 and returned in July of 2005. He described his position during that year as a “liaison between the United States Army and Iraq.”

Rothermel spoke about the city of Tikrit, where he and his battalion spent their time starting and completing projects. The projects ranged from working with the Iraqi army and police to rebuilding schools, warehouses, Tikrit University, hospitals and youth centers. His Battalion alone spent 13 million dollars on these and other projects. Eight million of that was solely devoted to Tikrit University for the construction of dorms, academic buildings and a dairy factory.

“We met with anyone we could speak to that could help us to help a bigger group of people,” Rothermel stated. He continued by describing where the money from these projects came from: “The money did not come from the oil, we were allotted the money by higher powers of the government or we submitted a request.”

Normal days for Rothermel began by waking at 6 a.m. to workout and to attend to personal hygiene. From 8 a.m. until dusk he would prepare for the days mission, give a patrol brief, go out on the mission and then return home for some free time. While outside the base, a soldier faced many threats from insurgents such as – car bombs, snipers and missile attacks.

“I had to teach myself to be scared every time I left the wire, because I realized this could be it,” Rothermel said.

The soldier’s base named “Danger” was one of Saddam’s many palaces located in the heart of Tikrit. He slept in a room every night where Saddam had “entertained his mistresses.” The palace was taken over by the United States Army and then returned to the city shortly after Rothermel left Iraq.

Another significant part of Rothermel’s tour in Iraq was the Iraqi children. Many pictures and video clips were displayed of the children waiting in line and fighting over toys and candy that the soldiers would hand out every chance they got. “The soldiers would hand out donations and whatever else that was sent to them from friends and family at home,” Rothermel said.

Rothermel explained that when he came home there were a lot of ups and downs to deal with being back in “civilian” society. He still keeps in contact with friends that he made while in Iraq and would like to go back one day to visit a special child named Teeba, who he became close with while working in a school for special needs children.

“The hardest part was watching him struggle when he came home. Thank god for family support because we couldn’t have done it without them,” Rothermel’s mother Carol said.

Rothermel has plans to do a short tour in Africa this summer for more civil affairs missions.

“The presentation was very eye opening and inspirational. I am not one for war but this presentation showed me a different side of war,” Adam Schreiber, WCU senior said at the conclusion of the presentation.

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