First Person: 10 Years Since Iraq

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First Person: 10 Years Since Iraq

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Maggie O'Leary leads a flag retreat ceremony in Iraq.

As we near the 10-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Yahoo News asked U.S. servicemen and women who served to share their perspectives and discuss how it changed them. Here's one story.

FIRST PERSON | I first enlisted in the military in 1997, when I joined the United States Army. I spent four years on active duty, and joined the Air Force when my first enlistment ended. I have served in the Air Force since that time. I raised my right hand just after 9-11.

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In 2007, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a deployment to Iraq to assist as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of one of our military legal offices there. At that time, I was a brand-new technical sergeant (E-6). As the NCOIC, I helped military clients with a variety of legal needs, from powers of attorney to wills, legal issues back home with spouses and the civilian courts, and a million other things. I did a lot of work with contracts and other legal documents that I didn't have a need to deal with back home. I learned a lot and helped a lot of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. I even had the chance to help a couple of Australian troops.

One of the things I most remember from that time was the lack of the same foods we have back here at ­home. I didn't complain -- I spent time eating healthy and working out when I wasn't in the office. However, I spent my 30th birthday deployed, and somehow the other personnel I worked with in the Legal Office managed to find an ice cream cake and some gifts to help me celebrate. I had two young children and a husband at home that I missed more than words can express, so it meant a lot to me that they would make such effort to help me have a special day.

My time in Iraq had a huge impact on my life and career, and it was mostly positive. There was a supervisor there that I kind of clashed with, but I got to work on my people-handling skills, so it wasn't for naught. I made a lot of friends that I still keep in touch with. And I got a lot of great experience that has helped me in my career. I am now a master sergeant (E-7), and I don't think I would have gotten this latest promotion without the things I learned on that deployment. I can honestly say that I am glad I volunteered to go.

I can't give an opinion on our country's leadership and the way they have handled the Iraq conflict. I do believe our presence there has been good for the Iraqi people, but I also believe it's time to come home and let them be independent. Since I'm not in charge of making those decisions, I will continue to serve proudly and go where I am directed to go. And if that requires another trip to Iraq, my bags are packed and ready at all times, just in case.

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