Some notes from the interviews we shot at Camp Virginia in Kuwait, where the 4th Stryker Brigade 2nd Infantry Division was packing up to go home…reflections on the Iraq War from the last combat brigade to leave it behind.
Army Chaplain Steven Thomas
On the toll that service in Iraq has taken on soldiers:
I’ve seen it in the marriages that break up. It's very hard because you're asking a person, especially if you have children, to be a single mom, or sometimes a single dad. People need to know that they're loved and when you're far away it just takes a toll.
On the mood at Camp Virginia:
I think that most of the soldiers are really looking forward to going home and a lot of them are going to look back and say I worked for my country, I did the right thing, and we're part of history.
It's amazing that after such a long time this war is over. And I think that's where people are – people trying to figure out what does this mean in history? We did our part, we followed our part.
Sergeant Jay Storsteen
On the hardest moments of his deployments:
The hardest part has been what’s gone on back at home. The difficulties we face over our deployment are not necessarily here but what's happening in country but what’s happening at home while we’re so far away.
On what he’ll take away from the experience:
Being locked up in a vehicle when it's 130 degrees outside and just about ten degrees less inside you really get a sense of brotherhood. You burn the fat off your soul in a country like this.
On what was different on this mission:
This deployment was really different, everything we did was in tandem with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police. Almost like taking a step back and observing kind of crawl, walk, run. By the end we kind of took the leash off them and they did a lot of good things. It was really good to see them take care of their own country.
I’m just looking forward to getting back to my friends and family, having good times…start living life again.
Specialist Nathan Robert Hoefs
On how he feels right now:
I've been here '07, '08, '09, and '10. And I'm really excited to get back to my family and friends. It’s been a lot of work the last few months trying to get home, still closing up shop in Baghdad. It's time to go.
On how he’s seen Iraq change:
Iraq's changed a lot, actually. When we got there the Rules of Engagement were different, back in '07 and '08 we weren't allowed to drive with other vehicles, we weren't working much with the Iraqi police and Iraqi army. This time there was a lot more working with them, training with them, we were even living with them for a while. So it was kind of interesting.