After nearly nine years of war that have taken their toll and marked an entire generation, the Iraq War is at an end. With more than a million soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and their families having served and sacrificed, we find ourselves reflecting on the operations and final tally.
Tens of thousands of our troops have been wounded, and an untold amount will suffer from combat-related disorders for years to come. Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and brothers and sisters in arms. The total cost for the war in Iraq will easily top $1 trillion. War is hell.
I had the honor of serving my country and Marines twice in Iraq. First in the city of Mosul during the invasion in 2003, and later, in the Al Anbar province in 2004, to include the assault on Fallujah in November of that year.
I have seen the entire spectrum of war in Iraq -- community relations, training Iraqi security and military forces, long desert patrols, convoys and intense house-to-house fighting. Nothing will ever reinforce my belief in our country like the fighting will and spirit of our armed forces.
I am a firm believer that freedom is never free. The opportunity for freedom can be provided, but the act of securing freedom must be personal and done on one's own two feet. I spent countless hours in villages and towns in Iraq attempting to explain what freedom truly is.Individuals who feel we should maintain a heavy military presence in Iraq seem to think the job will only be done once we've created Iowa in the Middle East. It is not going to happen. The family groups, clans, tribal hierarchy and religious aspects there make it so foreign that it's incomprehensible unless you've stood on the ground and tried to solve the problems on a daily basis.
Iraq has reached the peak of the learning curve. We have prepared its people for success and provided all the opportunities any fledgling country could want. It is now up to Iraq to stand on its own two feet.
President Barack Obama's guidance for victory was not just strategically important, it was dead on.
Victory is achieved when Iraq is a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant country. Done.
In 2008, Mr. Obama, then a presidential candidate, pledged to end the war in Iraq responsibly, and today, we see the fulfillment of that promise. That's not to say we're leaving Iraq high and dry. The president and secretaries of defense and state have all committed to ensuring Iraq's long-term success.
After all, we as a country, have a lot invested in Iraq, both in blood and money. The president pointed to this fact when he noted that together, we are starting a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Iraq -- a partnership between two sovereign states that will serve our mutual interest.
With the Iraq war concluding and Afghanistan on the drawdown, we can now focus our efforts on rebuilding here at home.
The president has said that "part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who fought it," and that America will provide those who served with the care and benefits they have earned.
With the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, our veterans are now enlisted in the mission of rebuilding America and becoming the next great generation of prosperity. Hardened through sacrifice and service, our military personnel are the backbone of this great nation.
Whether in or out of uniform, there is nothing our service members, past or present, cannot accomplish.
So to all those who raised their right hand and answered the call to arms, I say, "Thank you. Job well done."