By Tom Brokaw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/19/2004 7:45:57 PM ET 2004-10-19T23:45:57

Stan Goff is pretty much a lifer in the U.S. Army — Delta Force, Rangers and Special Ops — retired after 26 years serving in seven conflicts — including Somalia, Guatemala and Vietnam. His son served in Ramadi, Iraq.

Steve Robertson served during Operation Desert Storm. He has 20 years of military service behind him and a lifetime commitment ahead through his work at the American Legion and a son and wife who are both on active duty.

They are two men with a rich sense of duty to their country, with family members in uniform. And yet, like the candidates, and so many Americans, they remain deeply divided.

"People in military service and ex-military people are not monolithic," says Goff. "They have seen things from the ground up and so they have a different perspective. And you know, we tend to be sort of hard-headed and irascible … sometimes. But a fair number of veterans that I know now are very much against this war."

Robertson has been a supporter of the war. Has he seen any doubts at all creeping in?

“No, sir. No doubts. The purpose of us being there is to help expand freedom,” says Robertson.

Goff disagrees.

“It's very easy for a 12-year-old kid to take a big stick and go hit a hornet's nest," he says. That's the easy part. The hard part is what do you do after you hit it? We've created more generalized animosity to the United States than we could have ever dreamed of pre-9/11.”

“My major concerns are the troops," says Robertson. "I do not want to ever be in a position where I am questioning whether the troops should be there.”

Stan Goff sums it all up.

“People are very reluctant to change their minds,” he says.

That’s especially true when the Americans — young men and women in uniform — are in harm's way.

“There's this idea that somehow it's unsupportive,” says Goff.

Does Robertson worry that the American military is being stretched too thin?

“My wife is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force on active duty," he says. "My son's a second lieutenant in Korea. You're absolutely right I worry about 'em.”

But, at the end of the day, Robertson says he fully supports the president's decision to go to war. Why?

“Because I believe that he did not make the decision unilaterally," says Robertson. "As a soldier, my job is to carry out the order of those that are my superiors. Our trust is the fact that our civilian leadership are making good decisions.”

Again, Stan Goff disagrees.

“The kind of questions that we have to ask about this administration are questions that are not going to make people very comfortable,” he says.

Would Goff stay in Iraq if he were president? No, he’d get out right now.

“People say that if we leave there's a risk of civil war. Well, there's a civil war right now,” says Goff.

If Robertson were called tomorrow and was told, "We need you back in uniform to go to the Middle East,” what would he say?

“Absolutely … once I got past the P.T. test, my bags would be packed and I'd go. That's the mission of a soldier,” he says.

Two men with a strong sense of duty and honor — and deep divisions about the future.

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