November 11th, 2008
02:37 PM ET

Spending Veteran's Day in Iraq

CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Baghdad about the troops in Iraq on Veterans Day.
CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Baghdad about the troops in Iraq on Veterans Day.

Arwa Damon | BIO
CNN International Correspondent

Its 9:30pm in Iraq’s capital on veterans day – sitting on the edge of a blast wall, I can hear the shouts coming from the handful of US troops playing basketball on the court nearby. Its something they couldn’t do a year ago – this base in southern Baghdad was mortared on a regular basis.

Few of the soldiers are even aware that it’s Veterans Day – far away from the ceremonies and parades back home in America, they are still fighting a war that the world would rather forget about. Many are on their 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th deployments.

“It’s a hard thing” 23 year old SSGT Raymundo Rogriduez who we interviewed yesterday for our veterans day package had told us. “When I did it the second time, coming back for this deployment I kind of told myself not to get too attached towards the end…because I knew when the day came it would be harder for me to get on that bus, that one last hug, that one last kiss, and you know tell them I will see you when I finish working.”

So many Americans made that promise but couldn’t keep it. Others have returned home physically and emotionally scarred, trying to re-enter the “normal” world in a society that is distanced and disassociated from war, where few can even begin to relate to what life here in Iraq is like.

“I think the thing that will change the most for me is that I will feel a great need to try and educate family and friends and anyone who will listen to what its really like over here.” 25 year old Lt. Rob Ganim on his first tour who just stopped by for a chat said.

“I think I will find myself emotional towards people that don’t understand and say things that they don’t have any true experience or knowledge of. I feel like its my responsibility as a soldier and a leader to make it clear what we’re really doing.”

Filed under: Arwa Damon • Veteran's Day
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Jackie Evans

    Iam a Retired Navy with 20yrs of active duty military service including tours of duty in Gulf War I and II onboard US Navy Vessels. I want to thank and i send prays to all NAVY Personnel at sea ensuring the sea is safe for transport of goods, for fisherman, and the support of Marines and the Army. GO NAVY!!! you bring the marines to the fight and aid the Army in its mission, The Navy has answer the Call to Duty. Thank you.

    Shout OUT to the following US Naval Vessel (you are making a difference ) : USS Milius, Decatur, Essex, Mobile Bay, Antietam, John Kennedy, John Paul Jones, Higgins, Victorious, Loyal, Sterett, Kidd, Sullivans, Bon Homme Richard, Bunker HIll, Donald Cookz, Sameul B. Roberts, Rent George Washington, McFaul, Mcclusk, Halsey, Hewitt, Frank Cable, Porter, Abraham Lincoln, Lake Champlain, and the Lassen , Leyte Gulf, Cowpens, Nimitz, Carl Vinson, Mount Baker, Flint, Kiska, Theordore Roosevelt,Thach, John Hall, Jarret, John Ericsson, Leroy Gumman, Kanawha, Ford, Carr, Taylor, John Mccain, Cole, Emory S. Land, Fitzgerald, Chung-Hoon, James Williams, Pinckney, Mason, Princeton, Gettyburg, Kitty Hawk, Shiloh, Port Royal, Vella Gulf, Hue City, Vicksburg, IWO Jima, Bataan, Wasp, Gunston Hall,Halsey, Sampson, Shoup, Fort Mcherny, Germantown, Peleliu, Denver, Grasp, Salvor, SafeGuard, Ponce, Juneau, Nashville, and to all the Naval Vessel that wasn't list , Thank you for your service. Go Navy!!!!

    November 11, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Our veterans have earned and have the right to expect remembrance and respect every day and not just on Veteran's Day or Memorial Day. They keep us free and safe every day and their sacrifices are too many to count. I'm proud of our troops and veterans – they have given us a gift of themselves that we can never repay – several years of their young lives when most of us would be going to college, dating, etc rather than fighting in a foreign country. Those young days cannot be retrieved and when the worst happens those young lives given in service to our country are irreplaceable. Bless our veterans – they represent the best of America.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 11, 2008 at 6:47 pm |
  3. Linda Hendrickson

    Veteran's Day used to mean a day off, no banking or postal services. Now it is something more. Both my husband and I are veterans: I served 15 years in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. My husband retired from the Air Force after 21 years and a day. And our son joined the Army after 9/11–and we lost him in Iraq.
    Mr. Cooper honored us by including Rob's story in his November 2006 program "Coming Home;" we were the last two minutes of the show, and we are grateful every day that he chose to include us.
    I participated in a Veteran's Day program in our town of Purcell, OK today. The local high school and its Honor Society honored all local veterans with a program, speeches, and a lunch. I was the youngest veteran there and felt like a kid! My service was not during war but in peace, but it was still a contribution. I met WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans; our speaker was a veteran of the first Gulf War and the current actions in Iraq. And some of those high school students will join the service, and I will be proud of each one of them, just as I will be proud if Rob's son (our oldest grandson who is now turning 10) decides to join.
    Thank you to everyone for their service and sacrifices for our country.

    November 11, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I agree it's very important for us to hear about what has been going on over there from the troops themselves and not what the media wants us to hear. It's unbelievable to hear there are soldiers on their 4th deployment there. Since the war is "over there", much of it does not enter America's minds unless they have a loved one serving. I wish them all a safe return back soon.

    November 11, 2008 at 3:30 pm |
  5. xtina, chicago IL

    Thank you, Arwa for supporting our troops.

    I want to thank our veterans for their service to our country. God bless you always. We appreciate you preserving the freedom that we sometimes take for granted.

    November 11, 2008 at 3:16 pm |