Central Texas veterans are reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the start of Iraq War ground operations

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Monday marks 20 years since the United States launched its invasion of Iraq.

The memories of this event are still painful in the minds of many Americans, especially for the veterans who fought during it.

20 years ago, military vehicles were all over Iraq when the United States invaded the country.

The goal was to destroy weapons of mass destruction and overthrow the rule of President Saddam Hussein.

Rolando Hernandez said he was a Marine and served in combat for seven months in 2003 and 2004.

He said he was part of a Marine assault unit and was at the start of the invasion of Iraq.

“The excitement, the excitement, the fear, seeing all the amazing things out there,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said he had several near-death experiences.

The veteran said he and his crew were transporting a prisoner by helicopter when they were hit.

“Suddenly we started to hear the sounds of rounds. Ride a helicopter, jump from a helicopter. I said: “O man, I thought we were in the dark, how do they see us?” What’s going on,'” Hernandez said.

As Hernandez looks at his signs and memorabilia, he said he looks back on the 20-year mark as a day of memories.

But he also uses Monday to reflect on veterans who have lost their lives and who have taken their lives.

“Some people have trouble adjusting. For the few people here who can’t accept it, they have a problem. They take their lives and that’s the sad part of it. Because a lot of times people think that they don’t have anybody, or that nobody is there, or that nobody understands them when they come out. I understand. When I got out, it was hard to get off the couch. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t really adjust,” Hernandez said.

Elya Kampfenkel said he was in the Air Force three times during the war.

He said that we should always respect veterans and understand their internal conflicts.

“They may face challenges and struggles that the average person doesn’t,” Kampfenkel said.

“Many of our veterans in Texas Central have gone to Iraq more than once. Some of them spent all four years of their work there. For these people here, I address them, I tip my hat to all the veterans of Central Texas and say, ‘Thank you for helping us out there,'” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said she started the Silkies Invasion of Waco to raise awareness about veteran suicide and mental health issues by addressing the issue with a hands-on approach.

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