JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thousands of veterans call the First Coast home and many are focused on the current conditions in Iraq. Some are among the men and women who have served in the war to help the Iraqi people gain their freedom. But was it all worth it?
First Coast News' Keitha Nelson sat down with a veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom to ask him just that.
"When you first get there you're scared," said James Heeter as he looked back at his time in Iraq. "You never know when you're going to die or if you're going to live."
The Forward Operating Base right outside of Bagdad was Heeter's home for a short while as he served there from 2005 to 2006. Heeter says to watch the current state of Iraq is disheartening to say the least.
"All of the young men and women that lost their lives which were some of my friends that I would be sitting at a dinner table with or breakfast then 30 minutes later pulling their bodies blown up out of a humvee," said Heeter. "For what? We did all of that for what?"
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS continue to target Bagdad, surrounding its oil refinery. Iraqi officials are now pleading with the US to send in American bombers. All while the divide widens in Washington on what should be done next.
"Personally I think they're confused," said Heeter. "They don't know what to do."
He believes it was a mistake to pull out of Iraq and leave the country virtually vulnerable resulting in their now need for more U.S. aid.
"We did all of that for what," asked Heeter. "And now just to let a bunch of insurgents take over again. It was just a waist."
Like many soldiers who have survived Operation Iraqi Freedom, Heeter now has a number of medical problems including Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic brain injuries.
He's hopeful in the end a sensible resolution is reached and his friends did not lose their lives in vain.