Waterloo firefighter Matt Carter served two tours in Iraq
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
Ten years ago this week, the Iraq War began with an invasion called "Shock and Awe:" a military doctrine and U.S.-led effort to bring down Saddam Hussein and establish democracy in the country.
In the decade since, 100,000 Iraqis have died and nearly 4,500 American soldiers were killed on Iraq's front lines. At least 65 of those casualties were Iowans.
Despite the controversy that's always hung over the Iraq War, some local soldiers still feel it had positive outcomes.
Matt Carter is always ready for active duty as a Waterloo firefighter. But that service is much different than the kind of duty Carter served just a few years ago in the Army.
"We realized pretty quickly in basic training -- when 9/11 happened, this wasn't going to be the easy two, three, four years we all signed up for," Carter said.
That was just the beginning of an uncertain, sometimes scary path ahead for Carter. He deployed to Iraq for the first time in 2003, just as the war there was starting.
"It got to be very, very stressful," he said.
He remembers how quickly things changed: from the timeline for getting out of Iraq…
"In spring and summer 2003, they were saying home by Christmas," Carter said.
...to changes in the way the war was fought.
"Probably the first 8, 9 months of my tour, there were no IEDs. We'd never heard of them," Carter said. "It wasn't until the end of my first tour that happened. By the second tour, that was one of our biggest threats."
The tragedy of war is still tough for him to come to terms with. Carter had comrades die in the line of duty.
Despite the human cost, and the $2 trillion taxpayers footed for the war, the veteran still believes some good came from America's Iraq intervention.
"The conditions they were living in were not very good before we got there," Carter said. "So I hope with everything that's happened, someday down the road -- and I know it'll take a while yet -- but that the country can be stabilized and they can have a normal life."
Now back home, Carter counts his blessings every day.
"I consider myself very lucky after what I saw over there," he said. "I have a wife, two little boys, and a great job. I'm really happy to be where I'm at in my life."
After his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2005, Carter left the Army. He's one of several Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans currently serving on the Waterloo Fire Department.
Even without suspected weapons of mass destruction being found, Saddam Hussein was removed from power.
However, more than half the public — 53 percent, according to a new Gallup poll — call the Iraq War a mistake. That's quite different from when the war started, when three out of four Americans supported it.
Tuesday, President Obama addressed the 10th anniversary of the war.
"The United States continues to work with our Iraqi partners to advance our shared interest in security and peace," Obama said in a statement. "We must ensure that the more than 30,000 Americans wounded in Iraq receive the care and benefits they deserve and that we continue to improve treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder."
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