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 | It was Christmas Eve night 2003 when I heard the phone ring. I had planned this special engagement with my high school sweetheart when my Marine sergeant interrupted with a call: "Osbourn, pack your bags. You're going to Iraq."
My heart picked up and my hot chicken noodle soup became instantly cold. The diamond was still there in my cargo pocket. "Where is Iraq?" I asked myself as I just turned 21 the month before.
Our unit spent the next month in California training for a war, patrolling the base and pretending we were looking for improvised explosive devises (IEDs) or Osama bin Laden. We prepared ourselves for a chemical invasion, studied IED material and ran on the beach singing out loud with pride.
It was Feb. 14, when my girlfriend landed in California to see me for the last time. The bus had dropped me off miles away from the airport, and I wanted to be there when she landed. I sprinted miles in my dress shoes and my bag that carried my gear swung from side to side as I had promised I would be there.
The plane landed and there she was while I'm sweating. She hugged me and our little time we had together was over before you knew it. This was the most difficult time in my life. I was leaving my fiance, my business that I had started, my family, and my dreams. But I had a mission that was asked of me. Being in the infantry of the United Stated Marines, I was trained to shoot to kill. My goal was to come home and there was no one who was going to stop me from coming back to Kentucky to see her and finish what I had started: our wedding.
While at Abu Ghraib prison, the first time I took the tower duty position, I heard this loud sound like a mortar. It started getting closer and closer and closer. I scanned the distance with the machine gun in my pit, and I focused on not having tunnel vision or just one area. I then scanned my surroundings to make sure all my Marines were safe. It's a brotherhood; we are a combat support team that knows each other so well. Our mission is top priority.
The Army sergeant reminded me when he left his post that he was going home and instructed me if we got attacked to look over the hill and begin to fire at the mortar position. As a Marine, we were taught not to waste ammo and to make sure we don't hurt anyone but the enemy. This was a yearlong effort making sure mortars didn't land on us or near us. Every time I hear that sound, I remind myself that everything is all right! America is not Iraq. I'm home, I'm free, and I support the red, white and blue. God bless the ones who gave it all, and God Bless America.
Iraq was the best and worst time of my life. My fiance and I have moved on from each other, and I have built a company with the values of what the Marines have installed within me. I have recently become baptized and enjoy living a life for God. I continue to wait and be patient for the love I once experienced.