Iraq veteran: 'Operation may be over, but war isn't'
More than 4,400 troops died in the seven-year war in Iraq out of more than a million and a half that served.
One survivor, a Baton Rouge native, said he's relieved the combat mission is over but does not think this is the end of the war. After six months in Iraq for the first Gulf War as a marine and a year back there with the National Guard in 2008, hearing the president say Operation Iraqi Freedom is over is what SFC James Wicks, (Ret), said he's been waiting to hear.
"It makes me feel real proud because now our troops can come home and be out of harm's way," said Wicks.
Over the past seven years, Wicks said he's lost friends at war and time with family at home in order to give another country hope and protect his own.
"In a way, we got to let them know that the United States wasn't pushing over to the fact that we was attacked in our backyard," said Wicks.
Wicks said he thinks leaving less than 50,000 troops in Iraq in an advise and assist capacity is the right move but said he worries Iraq isn't ready. He said he fears Americans leaving will invite terrorists in their place. However, he said it's no longer America's battle to bear.
"I feel they should pull out because we're fighting their war," said Wicks. "It isn't concerning us. It's concerning them."
While Wicks said he does have hope that all American troops will return next year as the president promised, he said he has concerns for the new war building in Afghanistan.
"It's an endless battle," said Wicks. "I believe it's gonna be an endless battle."
While more than 100,000 troops are gone from Iraq, the president said a complete withdrawl from the country won't happen until the end of 2011. The president also plans for military forces to file out of Afghanistan after a similar mission next August.