It has been about 8 years. I know some guys who have spent more time in Iraq over the past decade than they have at home. For me, I have deployed my fair share and have traveled throughout the country. As I spent my last days in this place, I reflected back on all the memories. Some good, some difficult and so much sacrifice. Soldiers who have left their families time and time again. Spouses, children and families who deal with the stresses of the homefront while Soldiers deal with the stresses of the battlefront. Sometimes it seems like we are two worlds apart even after we come home.
I read in the newspaper that on December 15, 2011 the last military base was signed over to Iraqi officials. The transition to zero was December 31,2001, and now the Iraqi Campaign medal is terminated. This is a huge change from the “Surge” when there were around 170,000 troops spread throughout the country.
So many memories flood my mind. Late night missions, chow hall conversations, chapel services, prayers, baptisms, good friends, convoys, chopper flights, various strange and difficult situations.
I think of all the casualities of war. I pause to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those I have known. I can still see their faces. I have made notification to many family members, proformed funerals and memorials while in the rear, made trips to the morgue, preformed battlefield memorial services, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) debriefs and have spent hundreds of hours of counseling while deployed.
As I reflect on this war, I don’t think of the politics or the inconveniences. I think about the people. Those who have given so much. The wives, husbands, children, families and friends. So many people who have prayed and sent care packages. Gratitude fills my mind as I think of all those who have been supportive and have shown care.
Last Memorial Day I was in Iraq. Today I pause to remember that period of my life.
This Memorial Day there is much to remember, remember those who have given so much.
Remember all the sacrifices.
Over the years, through many wars and conflict, there has been so much heriosm, sacrifice and loss.
Pray for comfort, strength and encouragement for those who have been left behind.
If you have spent time in Iraq take time to reflect on your journey. Remember what you have learned.
Pray for Iraq, her leaders and her people.
Remember today the sacrifice of so many.
Check out this video filmed just days before leaving Iraq.