FT. BRAGG, N.C. – Sgt. Daniel Dickerson, part of the 82nd Airborne Division that’s based here, says it “feels good” to hear President Obama herald the end of war in Iraq after nearly nine years of fighting.
“We should have pulled out a long time ago,” he told ABC News ahead of Obama’s visit today. “We weren’t really doing anything. It was more causing a problem for them than helping them.”
But the native Tennessean, who served 14 months in Kirkuk, Iraq, said adjusting to life at home after rotating in and out of theater, between Iraq and Afghanistan, has brought new challenges.
“You get a lot of attention while you’re over there. But back here its pretty much you’re back down under a rock again,” Dickerson said. “So, it’s probably why all the stuff goes on when people get back.”
Returning troops experience disproportionately high rates of depression, suicide, divorce and other inter-personal issues, according to several recent studies.
The comments underscored a new chapter for the U.S. military with the withdrawal from Iraq, stirring a mix of emotions throughout the ranks.
Sgt. Amber Simons, a human intelligence collector from Olympia, Wash., said she still worries about the Iraqi people.
“My major concern is [about after] we pull out and whether they’re going to be able to stand strong on their own two feet, government-wise. Also, what’s going to happen to the people? Some of them don’t know which way to go. Oh, I’m really afraid,” she said. “They’ve been at war for so long.”
Sgt. Christopher Glass of Newnan, Ga., praised the milestone in Iraq as a moment of reassessment for the U.S.
“I’m glad the troops are coming home, of course,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the next stage in the Iraqi people’s lives. They can move on, we can step back and play an advisory role. … I hope we can focus on the war in Afghanistan and bring that to a close also.”
Senior Master Sgt. Charles Dupachen echoed that sentiment about Afghanistan.
“It’s good to have [Iraq] over,” Dupachen said. “Would be good if the other one ends too, but right now that place is really chaotic compared to Iraq.”