A night vision view of LRHS Assistant Principal Thomas Bellantonio's company entering Iraq in 2003.
A night vision view of LRHS Assistant Principal Thomas Bellantonio’s company entering Iraq in 2003.

Olivia Ellis- Mustangs Ahead

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL)- This week marks 20 years since the United States invaded Iraq to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, opening a new front in the War on Terror.

LRHS Assistant Principal Thomas Bellantonio served in the war and was there for a total of 12 months.

Bellantonio, a 19 member of the Florida National Guard at the time, was federally activated to deploy to Southwest Asia and his unit entered Iraq from Jordan.

“My job in the army was infantry which means I conducted various missions pertaining to threats and security,” said Bellantonio.

A memorable part for Bellantonio was the killing of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay, which seemed like a giant celebration. By celebrating, rifles were shot in the air which is what made it more exciting and dangerous.

The scariest part of being there was the act of how quickly things would change.

“There were many days when it would go from boring to crazy in a matter of seconds,” Bellantonio continued.

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Bellantonio said one of his most unusual, and amusing, war experiences involved Pop Tarts.

The snacks arrived on April 2, 2003, shortly after the invasion.

“We landed in the desolate region of western Iraq and supplies were being dropped by parachute and one was a 6 ft by 6 ft by 6 ft cube of boxes of blueberry Pop Tarts. Only blueberry Pop Tarts,” he said.

Although they were great for the first week, Bellantonio said they soon began to be a little too much.

“We started playing games with them, like dominos, building towers, having frisbee tosses to see who would throw it the longest, and we also made a bed out of the pop tarts. It was quite interesting since we had so much time on our hands,” continued Bellantonio.