March 18, 2003 marks the start of the Iraq war. That was 16 years ago today. I was just finishing High School when this happened. One year later I was deployed to Iraq.
Reflecting back this was a significant personal date in my history.
I learned more than I could ever imagine.
I learned about life.
I learned about death.
I learned about humanity.
I learned about inhumanity.
My life was changed beyond comprehension.
The price paid was enormous.
-189,000: Direct war deaths, which doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands more that died due to war-related hardships.
-4,488:U.S. service personnel killed directly.
-32,223: Troops injured (not including PTSD).
-655,000: Persons who have died in Iraq since the invasion that would not have died if the -invasion had not occurred.
-$1.7 trillion: Amount in war expenses spent by the U.S. Treasury Department as through Fiscal Year 2013.
I deployed 4 times to the country of Iraq, I spent a total of 45 months downrange.
During my time I faced hardships I look back on and am amazed at God’s mercy on me. I fought in various battles across the country destroying untold amounts of lives.
I am proud of my service then; I am proud of my service now. I was given the opportunity to use the best war equipment our country had to offer. I was given the chance to serve with some of the most hardworking and brave men from all walks of life. I received some of the best training and was able to be part of some of the most complex operations known to humanity.
But I also paid a price.
I look back through time, I see myself as that 18-year-old heading off to war. What advice would I give myself? What about the 24-year-old me who suffers from PTSD and drinks to cope? What would I say to the 26-year-old me who is afraid of going to sleep because he sees the dead?
I don’t think words can say anything to the me of the past. If I could go back I would show the experience of God and His love for me, the mercy He has given me. I would share the experience of nights without terror, of two sons, a loving wife and a precious daughter. I would show that only in resting in Jesus Christ am I able to have His peace.