HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I have always wanted to be a soldier. I pictured myself serving the country and here I am," said Sgt. Vincent Taufaasau, an infantry reservist out of American Samoa who deployed with the 100th Battalion in 2005.
Tomorrow marks the 10 year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The initial bombing of Baghdad on March 20, 2003 was called "Shock and Awe" – a decade later, it's now referred to as "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
Sgt. Taufaasau's voice halters as he describes how surreal it was the first time he was ever fired upon.
"I thought I was – a bullet wouldn't, I wouldn't get hurt, but all I hear is fire, bullets hitting our vehicle – and just keep moving don't stop," recalled Sgt. Taufaasau. "It was quite an experience, so I said to myself – it is real."
8 years later, Sgt. Taufaasau's feelings are still raw.
"I kept it in me for – for so long," explained Sgt. Taufaasau, as he choked up. "I always thank God that I'm home safe."
Sgt. First Class Erin Trudden enlisted a few months before the Sept. 11th attacks.
"There's an entire generation of soldiers that all they know is the war.
They were never in the Army prior to the war, so they don't know what it is to be not at war," described SFC Trudden. "It's just become so day-to-day that you don't really think about how long it's actually been anymore."
SFC Trudden was stationed at the Ibn Sina hospital in Baghdad.
"It changed my priorities greatly and made me realize that you have to take advantage of every day and make sure that you tell the people that you love, you love them every day," said SFC Trudden, who is certain about the lessons she's learned—it's the legacy she and her fellow troops will leave behind that's not as clear.
"I'm not really sure how it's going to be remembered-- I definitely don't think it'll be remembered in the same fashion that Vietnam was I think Veterans have a lot to do with that and there's a lot of support for soldiers which is, which is really nice," said SFC Trudden with a smile.
An estimated 1.5 million American troops have served in Iraq. 4,488 of them did not return home.