Fort Stewart Soldiers Recall Iraq One Year Later - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/19/04

Fort Stewart Soldiers Recall Iraq One Year Later

It's been one year since the United States and coalition forces began Operation Iraqi Freedom. With Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from US warships in the Red Sea and B-1 bombers, the United States conducted precision bombing raids on Iraq, targeting high-ranking Iraqi officials, the beginning of the war that would eventually liberate Iraq and catch dictator Saddam Hussein.

This morning, President Bush said America's war on terror will not be stopped. "Each of us has pledged before the world, we will never bow to the violence of a few," he said. "We will face this mortal danger and we will overcome it together."

The war is still fresh on the minds of Third Infantry soldiers. WTOC spent time with soldiers who fired the opening rounds in the ground portion of the war and earned the nickname the Tip of the Spear.

Its hard for SSgt. Rodney Johnson to believe it's been one year since the Third Infantry opened fire to start the ground war in Iraq. They'd been posted at the Kuwaiti border for months, half expecting the politicians to avert war. "Even when we got the word, it was a big shock, cause we hadn't thought it would happen because we stayed in the desert so long waiting," he told us.

In the first hours, they fired round after round to make a way for infantry. "Everybody was excited and they were ready to go, just ready to go, really excited with so much going through your head," Sgt. Christian Castro told us.

They were too busy to realize they were making history. In just three weeks, the division marched through Iraq on the way to Baghdad. They eventually captured Saddam's palaces and his airport, and helped topple his dictatorship. "When first crossed the border, a lot of people were happy to see us, US soldiers," said Castro.

While Third Infantry shocked the world by traveling through Iraq so quickly, these soldiers were a little disappointed. "If resupply had gone quicker and the sand storm hadn't hit, it would have gone quicker," said SSgt. Joseph Dombrowski.

Even with the war over, the Third Infantry isn't finished in Iraq. They're slated to return by the end of the year. But soldiers say they'll be there to steady the new country they helped start.

During the weeks of fighting and the months after, out of 16,000 deployed to Iraq, 44 Third Infantry soldiers paid the ultimate price, dying in Iraq.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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