In the Arena

Election Road Trip, Day 9: Hubdizzle Votes

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Iraq veteran Raymond Hubbard votes on Primary Day in Sharon, Wisconsin. Photograph by Peter van Agtmael - Magnum for TIME

Sharon, Wisconsin

Traveling Companion: Jim Pinkerton

Event: Raymond Hubbard Casts A Vote

We’re standing at the Sharon, Wisconsin, town hall, which is essentially a garage plopped in the middle of cornfields. It’s about 8:30 am, blue sky, no tears. This is where the metropolis of Sharon votes–and we’re waiting for one particular voter, a friend of photographer Peter Van Agtmael’s: Raymond Hubbard, a former U.S. Army sergeant whom Peter met at Walter Reed Army Hospital a few years ago. Hubbard–or Hubdizzle, as he was known downrange–was blown up by a 122mm Russian rocket while stationed at the Baghdad International Airport on July 4, 2006. He lost a leg, lost a lot of blood and had a stroke which left him speechless after he woke up from a three-week medically induced coma.

When Peter and Hubbard show up a few minutes later, it’s clear that Hubdizzle is still working his way out from under. He speaks haltingly, says every step he takes hurts because he hasn’t built up a sufficient callus on his stump yet. He lives in town with his two sons (his marriage was a casualty of war as well) and he’s studying to be a teacher.

Iraq veteran Raymond Hubbard votes on Primary Day in Sharon, Wisconsin. Photograph by Peter van Agtmael - Magnum for TIME

It’s primary day in Wisconsin and Hubdizzle wanted to be sure to vote for Scott Walker, a conservative Republican running for governor. “I’m a libertarian,” he says. “I started off moderate liberal, but then turned conservative as I got older, but the Republican Party didn’t really reflect my views. I’m pro-choice, pro-gay marriage. Everyone has a right to pursue happiness in their own way.” He said he tended to vote Republican more often and is a big fan of his Congressman, Paul Ryan, the young Republican budget wonk.

He was more tolerant than angry with the President: “He’s doing what he can, but the lack of experience is definitely showing. He should have spent some time as Governor of Illinois first.” He didn’t like that Obama had accused the police officer in Cambrdige, Ma., of acting in a racist way when he arrested Henry Louis Gates last summer. (It’s always fascinating how some events stick in the minds of voters.) He said he was concerned about the economy, but wasn’t sure how to fix it: “That’s for more educated people than me to say. All I know is what they’re doing isn’t working. None of my friends have been helped much.”

He said both his grandfathers had fought in World War II, his father and uncle had fought in Vietnam–and he wanted to continue the family tradition. Sometimes he talks with his uncle about their wars. “We trade war stories, but he’s still having trouble coping with the loss of that war. He says the veterans are getting treated about 1000 times better now.”

I asked Hubbard if he felt more positive about Iraq than his uncle felt about Vietnam. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Yes. Definitely.”

This post is part of my Election Road Trip 2010 project. To track my location across the country, and read all my road trip posts, click here.