Recent events unfolding in Ukraine have given the first world a rude awakening about a very real possibility of armed conflict between nuclear powers.
Students around the world have protested Russian aggression and stood in solidarity with Ukraine. At Albion College, students and faculty held a vigil on March 16 for Ukrainians at the rock on the Quad.
Anders Forster, a first-year student who attended the vigil, has had his own experience with armed conflict as a soldier in the United States Army who served in Afghanistan.
“Whenever I see a conflict like this (Ukraine), the first thing I tend to think of are the soldiers because I’ve been in that position,” said Forster.
When conflicts like those seen in Ukraine break out, it is common for those not involved to initially think of the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Although that is crucial to note, the soldiers and their experiences can fall to the wayside.
Even for aggressor countries like Russia, it is estimated that up to 25% of the Russian military is composed of conscripts who have no say in what country President Putin decides to invade.
“A lot of people think soldiers are this nameless, faceless entity when they’re 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds like I was,” said Forster. “Some are just trying to pay for college, some are just trying to be away from their family.”
Coming out of the armed forces and reintegrating back into civilian life can pose challenges for former soldiers as well.
“You obviously have your ups and downs coming back stateside,” said Forster.
But, coupled with the pandemic and the economic turmoil that the world is facing, the prospect of conflict between the U.S. and Russia is cause for concern among students like Anders who know firsthand the consequences of warfare.