Marking Ten Years Since The Invasion of Iraq
Ten years ago, President Bush told the American people that U.S. military forces had struck against targets in Iraq; the first shots fired in a war which would last the better part of a decade, and included the capture and killing of that nation's dictator.
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"As a soldier at the time, you do what your Commander In Chief tells you to do. You go and you deploy and you don't question it. You do what he tells you to do," said Bob Rokjer.
Thirty-one years in the U.S. Army taught Rokjer well.
"I was 20 years old, a sophomore in college and had no money."
Service earned Rokjer accolades, including a Bronze Star. He retired a Lieutenant Colonel. He served in Iraq.
"It took me by surprise. I didn't realize myself it was ten years."
Ten years after the launch of the Iraq invasion, Rokjer stands by the U.S. military's mission.
"I do believe that we did the right thing."
Saddam Hussein had killed thousands of his own people. Killing Saddam, he says, made the world a safer place.
"The man was... he was a dictator. He needed to be removed and we did just that. So yeah, I personally believe it was the right thing to do."
Reflecting on the war in Iraq, on the toll, the wounded, the dead; one thing Rokjer is bothered by, even after the end of the war, is the ongoing cost.
"The biggest thing I always think about is when you decide to go to war like that, you're gonna absorb a heck of a cost."
Nearly 4,500 soldiers died during the Iraq War. For families, the cost of war has nothing to do with dollars.
"To me, it's heartbreaking. I'm glad we're out of there," said Mary Ellen Schramm.
Joining the Marine Corps was something Brian Schramm wanted to do. He served two tours in Iraq.
"Changed. He was changed when he came back. As they all are, for what they experienced," she said, with a sigh.
Lance Corporal Brian Schramm was just 22 years old when he was struck by shrapnel, and killed.
"How could you not be proud? You're scared to death."
Ten years after the launch of the Iraq Invasion, Schramm's parents, Mary Ellen and Keith, question the war.
"Going back, I have some questions for our government on why we went in and what we accomplished. We just kind of left," said Keith Schramm.
"The weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be our own weapons, used against us; the fact the government wasn't up front," said Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen now finds peace in being a member of the Gold Star mothers. She's organizing that group's convention in Rochester next month. She helps others who experience loss.
"We understand what it's like. We're not over that hump. I won't say we're over it. We move forward, and that's part of giving back."
There's no getting back what was taken. The Schramm's, too, question the war's monetary cost. They worry about troops in Afghanistan, and the wounded. What becomes of them?
So many questions, unanswered.
"That's the frustrating and angry part I have. Brian's gone. He's at peace. What about the ones that are left behind? And the families that are forever changed," Mary Ellen said.