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'A man of character': Ohio State military historian reflects on life of Colin Powell

Peter Mansoor, who is a military historian at the Ohio State University, said Powell was a man of character and served his country to the best of his ability.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The death of Colin Powell on Monday hit home for Ohio State University military historian and former U.S. Army Officer Peter Mansoor.

Mansoor serves on the Veterans Advisory Committee for the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus where Powell gave the keynote address during its opening in 2018.

Mansoor also sits on the museum board and fact-checks all of the historical content for the museum.

“He was a man of character and that definitely comes through when you meet him in person. Colin Powell's legacy will be he served the country to the best of his ability both in uniform and as a civilian. He was the first Black chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during a very tumultuous time including the end of the cold war and the first Gulf War,” Mansoor said.

Powell rose from humble beginnings to become one of the nation's greatest military leaders.

“This is the great success story. He grew up in the south Bronx, his parents were Jamaican immigrants. He went through New York public schools. This is really a great example for young people to immolate. You don't have to be a child of means to succeed provided you work hard,” Mansoor said.

Powell was the national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan at the end of the Cold War.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he was the architect of the invasion of Panama in 1989 and of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, which ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait but left him in power in Iraq.

In February 2003, Powell addressed the nation to support the decision to invade Iraq in which he detailed Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

After troops invaded in March of that year, it was clear the intelligence was wrong.

Powell later called it a blot on his record.

“He should have interrogated the intelligence more closely and had he done so the outcome at that time may have been different. The invasion of Iraq may have been the greatest strategic mistake in the history of the United States,” Mansoor said.

When Powell left office he devoted his time to helping young people. In 1997 he founded American's Promise to help at-risk children. He would go on to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

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