CHICAGO (CBS) — A local U.S. veteran of the Middle East conflicts says an American soldier’s alleged massacre of more than a dozen Afghan villagers shouldn’t overshadow efforts to help people there.

Jonathan Cooper served three tours in Iraq as a Marine and a fourth in Afghanistan as a member of the Illinois National Guard.

“It’s a highly stressful, highly stressful environment,” he tells CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman at the VFW in Bridgeport. “It takes a toll, both mentally and physically.”

But he says that doesn’t justify the acts of a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant, who is accused of going on a shooting spree in Afghanistan. The soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan villagers — many of them children — and then burned some of their bodies.

Cooper says that shouldn’t undermine what American troops have accomplished there.

“You can’t just only focus on that,” he says. “We do a lot of things, build roads, schools mosques.”

“I hope I was able to give someone the freedoms they deserve instead of being under a brutal regime,” Cooper adds.

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