Editor’s Note: After so many years of fighting and losing so many friends and family members, I can only imagine what our vets are going through.
While watching Iraq devolve deeper into chaos, many Iraq veterans are freshly remembering battle buddies lost in that land — leading some to yearn for a return to the fight but others to ponder what their sacrifices now mean.
“That’s definitely the question we’re all asking ourselves,” said Kris Goldsmith, 28, who deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an Army forward observer.
“We spent so many lives and so many years trying to build an [Iraqi] army, and if it didn’t work after all of the time, effort, money and blood that we put into it, it was never destined to work,” said Goldsmith, who lives in Long Beach, N.Y.
The deaths in Iraq of 4,477 Americans — names never far from the minds of surviving veterans — carry a deeper sting for scores of ex-combat troops after several torrid days of Iraqi city sacking by an al-Qaeda splinter group.
Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also called ISIL or ISIS, this week overran government forces in the major cities of Tikrit and Mosul. On Thursday, an audio recording purported to be from the spokesman for ISIS beckoned the anti-U.S. rebels to march on Baghdad.
In rapid retreat, Iraqi military members have abandoned for use by ISIS an array of guns, ammunition and vehicles — much of it supplied by U.S. forces to help Iraqi security units defend their own country.
For some veterans, those images have fueled an impulse to head back and finish the mission.
“Seeing them driving our trucks, picking up our armor and weapons … pisses me off,” said Pete Chinnici, 29, a Marine veteran who served two Iraq deployments.
“I feel like I personally haven’t closed that chapter in my life. I still have some fight in me,” added Chinnici, who lives in Phoenix. “If they’re out there killing innocent people and destroying the country, I still feel like we should bring the fight to them before they bring the fight to us.”
Calls for U.S. intervention are rising — including among some U.S. lawmakers — as violence between the Islamic militants and the Iraqi government threatens to erupt into a regional conflict.