The Iraq War had a profound impact on the lives of many. For me it changed everything and made me into the person I am today. I remember watching the buildup to the war on the news at home and thinking to myself what if anything a war would be like. I was in the midst of some troubling times due to my distaste for authority. I was always an adventurer at heart and thought that at that point that I had only a few options. I never dreamed of killing or seeing the dead, it never occurred to me that this could be a possibility. So I made the phone call that would change my life and decided to with the US Army. I arrived to Basic Training in February of 2003 only a month before the invasion. Everyone was on edge especially the Drill Sergeants and made sure we were prepared for war. I vividly remember the night of the invasion the Senior Drill Sergeant woke us all up in the middle of the night with the announcement that we were at war with Iraq. After graduation i immediately left for Germany and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Bamberg, Germany. I was 19 and could have all the Bavarian Beer I wanted! I thought this was the greatest! After spending roughly 8 months in Germany we were given our orders to deploy to Baqubah, Iraq. We had spent the last months before deploying completely shedding our artillery training and learning how to be infantry soldiers conducting raids and convoys. Many of us were emboldened by our new task and set out for the deserts of Kuwait where we would stage for a push into the heart of Iraq and relieve the OIF 1 soldiers. After our training in Kuwait i was selected to be a part of the vehicle convoy that would set out into Iraq, the rest of the division would fly into BIAP (Baghdad Airport). I was amazed by this adventure, this is what I signed up for! I wanted to see the world and all of its glory. I was the gunner in the Company Commander's vehicle at the time and was able to see how the military works from another view. Once we arrived in Baghdad I was taken back by the massiveness of the sprawling city and the infrastructure they had. After a short stop at BIAP we continued onto Baqubah which sits about 40 miles northeast of Baghdad. Baqubah was the eventual resting place of Ayman al Zarqawi or the butcher as many would call him. He was killed by an airstrike shortly after I had left. I remember during some of our operations there we would recieve reports that he was lurking in the area. I think the moment that I will remember the most from this deployment is the day I had to help put another soldier in a body bag after an IED strike. It happened less than a month after being in country. His name was Adam Froehlich, and to the Company he was simply known as "Happy". Everyone in the company adored Adam for his positive attitude and selfless behavior. He was the soldier I strived to become. And here I was picking his lifeless body up with my SGT at the time and placing him in a black sack. I remember prior to this incident I had no problem with Iraqis, and really wanted to see them do well. After this I struggled with nightmares and paranoia. And my demeanor changed, on patrols I was ready to kill. If i seen an Iraqi acting even the slightest of suspicious I was trained on him and ready to strike. I had no remorse for the many dead that I had seen. Not too long after we lost Adam, we lost PFC Jason Lynch. A 19 year old kid from St. Croix Virgin Islands. He was assigned to my truck and was the gunner after I had been moved to driver. I took his death especially hard because I believed that his death was my fault. I was in a way responsible for him even as a young PFC myself. I had disobeyed the commander's guidance and took up a defensive position with Jason to help relieve our friends on the perimeter of the building we were holding in Buhriz, a date growing suburb of Baqubah. Buhriz was by far our biggest challenge of the deployment. It was pro Sadaam turf and we were almost guaranteed to take contact when we arrived on patrols. The Brigade commander at the time made it his priority to root out the ex-fedayeen and set up a local governance. This proved a taxing mission and American soldiers ultimately payed the price. To this day i wish to travel to St. Croix and see where he lived and maybe meet his family. I want to tell them i'm sorry. And tell them how courageous of a son they had. Looking back at my times with the unit in Germany i think about all the great times I had with so many great people. I had great leaders who shaped me into the soldier I am today. I will never forget them and never forget the soldiers that payed the ultimate sacrifice to our nation. I will also never forget some of the courageous Iraqis that we were fortunate enough to be paired with and train. We gave them an almost impossible task and they have lived up to it. They have made great strides and I hope that they never forget the blood, sweat and tears that we poured out to them. It was never our intention to hurt them. I just wanted them to succeed on their own and live a life of peace and freedom. I hope the same can be said for Afghanistan.
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