TAHRIR, IRAQ - MARCH 30: (NEWSWEEK AND U.S. NEWS OUT) U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division prepare March 30, 2003 to destroy a 14.5 caliber Iraqi anti-aircraft gun with C-4 explosives March 30, 2003 in Tahrir, Iraq 100 km south of Baghdad. The Marines had entered the day before. (Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began 10 years ago Tuesday. Troops from around the globe, including Arkansans, took an active role. It began on the evening of March 19 in the US, or the morning of March 20 in Baghdad, and still remains controversial to this day.
Most people THV 11 spoke to about the 10 year anniversary said they would always remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Major Chris Heathscott, of the Arkansas National Guard, said more than 9,000 deployed from the Guard.
"They don't serve in a war because they love it. They do it because they love their country," said Major Heathscott.
He added that he and his troops first mobilized in October 2003 for training, arrived in Iraq in February 2004 and remained until April 2005.
"What was most significant to us was that we rolled into theater shortly after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. So, we walked into a pretty hostile environment. Initially we suffered a lot of losses, so it was a very challenging deployment for us," Major Heathscott said.
Sergeant Christina Simons of the U.S. Army served two tours, working in radio repair.
"Even though I was a soldier, and even though I was trained to do that job, once the message came that you have to go, it did scare me a little," Sgt. Simons said.
Looking through an album of her service, she described her supportive family and friends who always looked out for each other.
"That's one of the bunkers, for example if mortar or something is coming in, or an explosion, that's one of the things you run under," Sgt. Simons said.
"Those individuals that we lost are like our brothers, and as you think about them you still get emotional because they gave everything they had," Major Heathscott added.
Major Heathscott and Sergeant Simons agree the war in Iraq hit home for many younger Americans.
For the first time, they said, a new generation could relate to realities of war through friends and relatives that served.