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America Invaded Iraq 15 Years Ago Today: Some Thoughts

15 years ago American troops put their boots on the ground in Iraqi soil. When the US and coalition forces crossed the line of demarcation, not a soul on the tip of the spear thought that we would still be there 15 years later. From talking to people and serving with people who were there on that day, most thought that this war would be over in a matter of weeks. The worst-case scenario was that we would be there for months.

As it stands now, this is the 180th month that we’ve been in Iraq. We’ve seen surges, drawdowns, surges again. We’ve experienced the Battle of Fallujah, the taking of Fallujah, the Fall of Fallujah, the retaking of Fallujah and on and on and on. We’ve seen boxes come home with our service members draped in flags. In fact, a group of Airmen lost their lives in Iraq just last week.

We entered Iraq without iPhones and iTunes had just been launched. 2003 seems like a fucking lifetime ago. For many, it is. Last week, I received a message from a friend. He was asking me if there was anything special he needed to do before going to a military funeral because he knew one of the crew members who was killed in Iraq last week.

I remember the names of my friends who took their last breaths on Iraqi or Afghanistan’s soil. The names of Chris Diaz, Dustin Lee, David Sonka, Joshua Ashley and Adam Cann are forever etched in my brain. Watching Marines who I trained like Cpl Zamora bleed in vehicles after being blown up by a suicide vest haunt me to this day. I’ll never forget the feeling of caring for Zamora’s dog while she received surgery at the same time that Cpl Zamora was getting ball bearings removed from his face in the next operating room while I still had bandages on my body after getting shot.

Zamora woke up from his surgery with his face swollen beyond belief. He opened his eyes, started to weep, and asked where “momma” was. He was talking about his dog. The bond between the handler and his/her dog is unmatched. When Ryan said that, I started to cry too. I had the same feeling he did but just two weeks before.

Memories like those shape who I am as a person. Memories like those are things that I try to escape from. I still receive treatment for PTSD and hundreds of thousands of others have put their boots on the ground in Iraq as well and, as a result, face those same demons.

15 years. 15 years without a whole lot to show for it but memories, friendships, torment, anger, humor, and unfortunately death. To everyone who walked in the moon dust in Iraq, cheers. To everyone who drew their last there, fair winds and following seas. Til Valhalla. Semper Fi.