By Spc. Luisito Brooks,August 19, 2010
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 19, 2010) -- As U.S. forces were preparing to cross the Iraqi desert to invade an area controlled by a powerful dictator in March 2003, Mitchell Anwar was busy constructing a special gift for his dad in Mr. Morris' seventh-grade wood shop class in Olympia, Wash.
"I remember when I was 13, and I made a gun rack for my dad at school ... when I came home to give it to him, I saw on the television President Bush telling Saddam we were going to invade Iraq," Anwar said. "I thought it was cool, the U.S. was going to this country to help these people (defeat) such a bad person."
Anwar said he knew then that he wanted to serve his country, and one day he would end up in the same places he saw on his television.
Many younger servicemembers in today's military are a part of what is being called by many Soldiers as the Iraq generation -- a relative term describing young servicemembers who were in their adolescence when U.S. forces invaded Iraq, and now serve in the military and have deployed to Iraq themselves. The latest members of the Iraq generation just completed a two-day convoy from Baghdad to Kuwait, as the journey of the last combat brigade leaving Iraq comes to an end.
"It was interesting growing up during this time of war in the Middle East," Anwar said. "When I was 13 years old, every time the news was on, the headlines read 'Iraq,' 'War' or something like that."
Now, Spc. Anwar is a 20-year-old infantryman with Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and is currently finishing a year deployment in Iraq.
Soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team have just completed a yearlong tour supporting U.S. Division-Center area of operations in and around Baghdad, assisting, training and advising the Iraqi Security Forces.
In March 2003, about 3,000 miles across the country from Olympia -- in Salem, N.Y. -- Spc. Brett Saunders, now an infantryman from the Manchus Battalion, was playing baseball for his local little league team.
"I knew only a little about the invasion at the time," Saunders said. "I really didn't think I would ever join the Army or deploy to Iraq."
Saunders said one day after graduating from high school, he decided the best thing for him to do was to serve his country.
"All I knew when I joined on Sept. 11, 2008, I was going to deploy," Saunders said. "When I got to my unit was when I realized the crucial part we would play during the deployment by providing support for the Iraqi national elections."
For Anwar, this deployment has been an experience he will never forget, not only because of the knowledge gained, but also because of a tragic personal loss.
"I am proud to be called the Iraq generation right now and that's because this was something that my late father wanted me to do," Anwar said. "He was a huge influence in my life."
During his return from mid-tour leave, Anwar received word that his father had passed away due to heart failure.
"I got the news while returning from my mid-tour leave," he said, biting his lip. "I had just seen him."
Anwar said he could not believe what he was hearing from the officer standing in front of him, giving him the tragic news.
Anwar's Family played a major part in his choice to join the Army, but his biggest supporter was his father, Adnan Anwar, who served in the Washington Army National Guard for eight years.
"I know my dad is proud of the things I have accomplished here," Anwar said.
Leaving this country in a better condition than when the U.S. military came here seven years ago was one of many goals set by Anwar and his unit.
"We made sure the Iraqis had everything the needed for the elections," Anwar said. "Things are not perfect here, but this country is on track toward a better future."
Anwar's unit is part of the last combat brigade to leave Iraq.
"Even though we are considered the young Iraqi generation, the men and women who served here and gave the ultimate price did not do it in vain," Anwar said. "We have defended our country and now brought closure to this war in Iraq."