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Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 9:10pm
EL PASO — Ten years ago, President George W. Bush announced the start of the U.S. invasion in Iraq. The war cost hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives.
"At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger," said Bush.
"At first, I was scared because I had never seen this before. I was real scared," said Sgt. Jonathan Garcia. "We were moving 10 minutes and we would get in a firefight. Then we would keep moving and 10 minutes later, we were in another one."
Sgt. Garcia was in Iraq for the invasion. It would be his first of four deployments to Iraq during the war. He spent a total of 45 months in the country.
"That was the only thing going through my mind. You got to do this. Get to your family and get your job done," said Garcia.
In December 2003, Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein was captured, but for American troops, there were still many years of hardship.
"We got rid of one bad guy, but we kind of opened up some fishers for a lot of other bad guys to come in," said Master Sgt. Joe Peavy
Sgt. Peavy went to Iraq in 2005.
"We rounded up a few bad guys but we mostly came across a lot of IED making materials and other weapons that could have been used against us," said Peavy.
The U.S. Army deployed Staff Sgt. Kevin Allen to help in Operation Iraqi Freedom twice.
"We all paid a big price for that. Some paid a lot more physically, some mentally or emotionally,” said Allen. “If you talk to anyone who's been downrange for a period of time, you're going to find all of us have days that we would not want to repeat."
But he said despite the bad days, it was a good experience.
"I was very young during my first deployment especially and when I came back from it, I was able to really focus in on things that are really important to me," said Allen.
A recent poll finds 54 percent of Americans think the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Allen said even if you don't agree with the war, you have to recognize the sacrifice, especially for the 4,500 Americans who lost their lives.
"They went downrange and they really truly had our nation's interest at heart and they really truly tried to help the Iraqi people,” said Allen.
The last troops left Iraq in 2011. The U.S. continues to work with Iraqi officials.
President Barack Obama released a statement that said, "Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation's longest wars."