One soldier speaks for many

Iraq veteran Phil Kiver will bring his lively and informative road show to Oak Harbor this month and next.  - Courtesy photo
Iraq veteran Phil Kiver will bring his lively and informative road show to Oak Harbor this month and next.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

If you have a friend or loved one who has fought in Iraq and doesn’t want to talk much about it, go listen to Phil Kiver.

With bright blue eyes and rugged good looks, the former soldier is both jocular and serious, representing in his mind the universal American soldier, not just from the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences, but dating back through the decades to every war the United States has fought, including the War of Independence.

Using his personal war experience combined with a master’s degree in military history, Kiver easily spices up his talks about current events with historical references. You think George Bush was hard on civil libertarians? Well, listen to what Lincoln did to the Constitution during wartime.

“I’m doing what I can to beat the drum for the service we’ve done,” Kiver said of the men and women in the U.S. military. “We need to be proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

He admits that most Americans have been supportive of the military in recent years, but that feeling isn’t shared by everyone. “Code Pink has come and protested me,” he said of the anti-war group. “I’ve seen a one-legged marine spit on.”

Kiver speaks throughout the nation, at Tea Party events, to Republican gatherings and even the Library of Congress. He can frequently be heard on radio shows. He aspires to be the Seattle Mariners’ play-by-play man when Dave Niehaus dies, but admits that’s unlikely. “Short of that, maybe talk radio,” he said of his aspirations in a visit to the Whidbey News-Times last week.

While visiting his parents in Anacortes, he’s been talking to local Rotary clubs, and has appearances scheduled in Oak Harbor. “I bring the experience all soldiers have,” he said. “I’m blessed with the ability to tell their story.”

He kept a journal during his Iraq tour, cut short when he lost most of the hearing in one ear. The resulting book, “182 Days in Iraq,” gives a personal account of the war experience.

His other book, “Iraq in Pictures,” offers a quick and informative glimpse of the war, from smiling kids to suspicious men, foreign soldiers, antiquities, American soldiers at play and work, and charred bodies inside bombed-out cars.

Kiver, raised in Cheney, now lives in Texas with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. And he’s proud of what he and 165,000 other Americans have accomplished in Iraq.

He’s proud that Saddam Hussein was captured, then “tried and hung by his own people.” He’s proud that Iraq has had a series of free, relatively honest elections since the American invasion, and that the people there have been given a chance to decide their own future, for better or worse.

He’s now spending his time spreading his positive message about the U.S. military, and points to the response to the Haiti earthquake disaster as an example of its importance to not only the U.S., but to the entire world. He wants to make sure Congress keeps supporting it.

He doesn’t argue that military action is the answer to all foreign policy problems. He’s against sending troops to Yemen, for example, at least right now.

But his foreign policy goal is simple enough:

“Change the world, one dictator at a time,” he said.

Where to find him

Phil Kiver can be found Saturday, Jan. 23, at noon at Wind and Tide Bookstore on Pioneer Way in downtown Oak Harbor. He is also scheduled to appear as the Oak Harbor Library, 1000 SE Regatta Dr., at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18.

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