Jacksonville, N.C. — While the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked in a fight to win North Carolina, for many people who live near Camp Lejeune, the real battleground state is on the other side of the world.
James Tyree, a retired Marine who now cuts hair at the Headquarters Barber Shop in Jacksonville, said the community has struggled every day for 11 years with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His customers aren't eager to give their opinions about war or the election, rarely speaking unless spoken to first.
Sgt. Daniel Potts Jr., who brought his 1-year-old son in for his first haircut, said he has deployed three or four times in recent years. He said he's "indifferent" to plans to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"I joined to do what I'm doing and to support and defend my country, so I'm doing that," Potts said.
After fighting for the U.S., he said he just wants people to care enough about the country to cast a ballot.
"A lot of people don't register to vote. A lot of people just don't get out there and do it. It's important," he said.
Lance Cpl. Tyler Burns, who bears a tattoo on his arm that says "Brothers will be there for all adversity," said he thinks Romney is more likely than Obama to send him to more war in the Middle East.
"Most Marines want to deploy. If we go somewhere else, that's what we want to do – a lot of us," Burns said. "But we don't want to be in Afghanistan. A lot of us feel that war has been over for years. It's an endless war, and you can't win it."
Both candidates support the 2014 withdrawal timeline, and Gunnery Sgt. Brian Gooch said he hopes that's the right target.
"I don't think we need to come back unless it's right, unless everything is done that needs to be done," Gooch said.
But completing the mission can sometimes lead to unfinished business at home, said Army veteran David McCarter.
"They're coming back injured. They're coming back with a lot of problems from the war," McCarter said, adding that he hopes whoever wins the election caters to the needs of veterans as much afterward as they do now while courting their votes.