A former Marine Corps staff sergeant urged anti-war activists Monday evening to help pick up the pieces for him and others who have served in Iraq.
Jimmy Massey of North Carolina told 75 listeners in True Bethel Baptist Church on East Ferry Street that he is ashamed of how he recruited men and women for the war and how he took part in the killing of Iraqi civilians.
"You can heal the wounded souls of young men and women who have witnessed what I have witnessed," said Massey, 34, who was invited to Buffalo by the Western New York Peace Center. "You, the community, have to pick up the pieces for us -- just like we're doing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina."
A 12-year veteran of the Marines, Massey was sent home from Iraq and given a medical discharge based on post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unable to afford school to become an automotive engineer, Massey explained, he had enlisted in the Marines. Eventually he became a recruiter.
Massey said he coached applicants on how to falsify answers about drug abuse and even intervened with the district attorney so they would not have a criminal record.
Later, he said, he was reassigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and took part in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Massey recounted several incidents in which his platoon fired on civilian vehicles approaching a military checkpoint.
One day, near Baghdad Stadium, the Marines fired on a speeding vehicle passing their checkpoint and left four wounded civilians to die without medical assistance or painkillers, he said.
" 'You killed my brother,' " Massey said the lone survivor told him. "I didn't know what to say. I just walked off. Where did the rise of the insurgency come from? From the Iraqi people whose brothers we were killing. We were supposed to be the liberators."
Asked what would happen if the United States were to pull out of Iraq, Massey replied: "I'll have to be honest with you -- I'd like to see a continued military presence in Iraq. If we pulled everybody out, the country would virtually collapse. We started it and we have to see it through."