ROCKWALL – For as long as he can remember, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq Army veteran, plus soon-to-announce Rockwall Republican U.S. Congressional candidate, Tony Arterburn wanted to join an elite fighting unit and serve his country where the action was.
In 1999, after graduating from Rockwall High School, where he became a world champion power lifter, he did just that when he became a member of the only U.S. Army Airborne Assault Paratrooper Unit and was among the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan, in Dec. 2001. His seven-month mission was to guard the perimeter around the Kandahar airport and help defeat the Taliban.
Trained in Ft. Bragg as a combat military policeman, he also processed and interrogated Taliban prisoners, working with other special ops units like Delta Force, Navy Seals and military intelligence, to learn the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
He was hand-picked to protect high-profile leaders visiting Iraq, including General Tommie Franks, whom Arterburn described as “a funny guy.”
“His presence was something else,” he said. “You could tell he was gifted.”
Then, in April 2003, he was again among the first boots on the ground in the invasion of Iraq, where his unit was responsible for killing Sadaam Hussein’s two sons, Uday and Qusay. His one-year mission there was to secure the city of Mosul, where he was involved in a great deal of police action, patrolling the streets, combating threats and seeking intelligence information.
When he returned home at the end of the Iraq War in 2004, he began looking for his next mission to serve his country. He said when he signed up for the U.S. Army he pledged to preserve, protect and defend the U.S. against all enemies foreign and domestic and has never reneged on that promise.
Because of all the action, death and trauma he experienced in those wars, he first needed several years to readjust to civilian life. Like many war veterans, he returned home suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He had to bury his best friend in Arlington VA who died as a result of a combat-related illness in Afghanistan.
Although he said the Army now has a much better program to help veterans overcome PTSD, Arterburn admits that for several years his only medicines of choice were scotch and bourbon.
“I used alcohol to medicate,” he explained, as he described his experiences. “As a result of the war, my nervous system changed. Even when I got home, I felt like I was under constant stress. My brain chemistry had changed. I had sweaty palms, heart racing, felt weak. I had no idea what was going on.”
He explained that a large part of the problem was that in Iraq they were given orders not to shoot unless first fired upon. Consequently he saw many men killed who did not have a chance to defend themselves properly. He said soldiers were constantly on guard, looking over their shoulder, to see if someone was going to shoot at them. Even at night, they couldn’t sleep because they were under such stress.
In 2009, Arterburn said he received a wake-up call when he was pulled over by a policeman in DFW and ticketed for DWI.
“My DWI was a real wake-up call,” he explained. “Like so many people who have just had a few drinks, I didn’t believe I was intoxicated.”
I had to ask myself, “Am I using alcohol too much?”
“My doctor, a former paratrooper himself, helped me to learn that alcohol actually inflames the portion of the brain that causes fear.”
“I lived with fear and stress for five years. That was enough. I acted normal, but I wasn’t.”
“It caused my marriage to end. Although my ex-wife and I remain friends and have a son together, she would tell you she didn’t know who I was anymore after I returned from Iraq.”
“Because of the DWI, my lost marriage and all I have learned since, I rarely drink now. I’ve rebuilt my life.”
By 2011 he said he felt whole again and started thinking about how he could utilize his military experience plus all he had learned about foreign policy to serve his country again.
During the time between serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, Arterburn said he read hundreds of books about history and foreign policy.
“A book written by Patrick Buchanan, The Death of the West, really changed my life,” he explained. “It gave me a new perspective that we’re actually endangering ourselves through military collateral damage. It breeds more people who hate the U.S.”
“War is a terrible thing and should only be fought as a last resort and in direct defense of our nation and people – not over ideology,” he added.
After fighting battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said he supports Reagan’s philosophy of ‘Peace through Strength,’ not peace through intervention.”
“Pres. Bush Sr. changed the Republican Party’s philosophy to a New World Order, but wars of ideology are what get us in trouble,” he stated. “As former Pres. John Quincy Adams said, ‘America was not designed to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy’.”
Now the co-owner of two Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise locations, Arterburn said he plans to announce his intentions soon to run for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, which is currently held by 16-term incumbent Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall).
He says he is not running against Rep. Hall because he likes and respects the Congressman a great deal. But, in case Rep. Hall steps down before the next election, the politically conservative veteran said he just wants to announce his intentions and make sure his name and political views are well-known across the 4th District so he can win the election.
For more information, visit his website at www.ArterburnForCongress.com
By J.J. Smith, Publisher