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    Posted February 3, 2013 by
    Tucson, Arizona
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The war through your eyes: Iraq 10 years on

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    The Take Away: Iraq through my eyes


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Former Marine MCteacher served in Iraq in 2006 -- three years after the invasion -- in Al-Qaim, a town in the restive province of al-Anbar that became a hotbed for the country's insurgency. His most memorable experience of the time was the birth of his younger daughter while he was serving -- and the surreal experience of being in a war zone while hearing the cries of his newborn child thousands of miles away in his California home. Now a teacher working in Arizona, for him the impact of the war, a decade on, can be seen most clearly on his students. "Many of them who what to join the military I share my experiences with," he says. "Also, it brings students into the topic -- because many of them do not know someone who has been through [the war] or how 9/11 changed history." The Iraq war formed part of the U.S.-led war on terror that shaped much of the foreign policy of the decade following the deadly 9/11 attacks in 2001. "It is something I talk about them on 9/11 and how it has impacted my life and the lives of others I served with," he said. "It makes the war real to them."
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    I think we all remember the anticipation of the “shock and awe” campaign as troops waited to cross the border into Iraq for the first time. I know I do. I was in high school. I watched as news cameras in Baghdad covered the endless bombardment that seemed really far away to me at the time. Even in that moment, knowing that becoming a Marine was something I always wanted to do, I had no idea the impact that this war would have on my life.


    Then again, I do not think that anyone anticipated a war of such length that would touch so many people’s lives. I am sure we all know someone who was affected by the war, if it didn’t impact them directly. But this wasn’t a concern of most in the U.S. at the time. I know it was not for me. We wanted not only justice for 9/11 but stopping the spread of terrorism was something most supported; and Iraq was viewed one of those places. That seems to have been forgotten over time. If not forgotten, people have shifted their position on what they believe the war was truly about. Oil? Bush’s ego? I doubt it. Despite anyone’s view on the start of the war, one thing that has remained constant over time is the unwavering support for our men and woman in the armed service.


    This is something I came to experience first hand during my deployment to Iraq. Care packages from strangers and family were a delightful surprise that often brightened your day, even after some of the most scaring of times. But there is one day in particular that I remember. One day that stands above the IED’s, the snipers, or the daily prayer to see the sun rise the next day.


    After nearly 24 hours of missions, I sat on my bed and could barely keep my eyes open. I knew I needed to call my wife, it had been a while since we had last spoke. But resting is what I needed. After a few hours of sleep, my friend and I made our way up to the phone center. We were luckier than most. We had 7 phones that worked when they chose. That is better then one satellite phone or nothing at all. Luckily one was open and I got right on. As my wife answered, I could hear something else. A very distinct noise that I was not anticipating on hearing that day. It was the sound of my hours old baby girl cuddling with her mom. Of course as soon as I knew I turned and yelled to the few people around me “My wife had the baby!” I didn’t have any cigars to pass out or pictures to show in that moment. Just a smile on my face, a tear in my eye, and support from the guys I was closest with. We gathered around a computer with missing keys and sand ingrained into every crack to see a picture of my baby. The picture was small, taken on an older flip phone, well before smart phones with 15 mega pixies were around. Falling in love has never happened more quickly or with more intensity than in that moment.


    Two months later I would step off the bus at Victory field at MCAGCC (Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center) Twenty-nine Palms and saw my wife and two year old daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly 9 months, and meet little girl for the first time.


    There are so many things that we take with us when we leave the battlefield. The memories of the close times we thank God we made it through, the memories of those who didn’t, and the mental struggles that come along with such actions. But it is important for us to know and recognize the good things that we can gain from a place that can birth such pain. I learned to appreciate every moment of life. I learned how to face a difficult situation and push through to the best of my ability. And I have never forgotten the importance of my family and what they mean to me.


    Now, I take the things I have learned and I share them with my students. I push them for their best in every moment and share with them my experiences so that one day when we are gone, people will remember the Iraq war not as something that happened long ago and has no relevance. But that is was real. That every time they look back, they remember the stories I have told… that we have told and will connect with it for the rest of their lives

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