"The 10 year anniversary of any military operation deserves to be recognized," said Iraq War Veteran Nate Christopherson.
Ten years ago, U.S. forces crossed over into Iraq for what would become a decade-long battle, touching thousands of soldiers and countless American families and friends here at home.
Over the past ten years, thousands of men and women from across the nation and South Dakota have fought in Iraq, creating a lasting impact on communities, individual families and the soldiers who gave a part of their lives for the War in Iraq.
Nate Christopherson of Sioux Falls was one of the first South Dakotans to serve in Iraq.
"It was hot and that equipment was heavy and you eventually just kind of started getting used to it," said Christopherson.
It's a feeling countless men and women have experienced over the past decade, but combat medic Christopherson was there from the very beginning.
"This was actually from when we had just crossed over into Iraq for one of the first times," said Christopherson.
Arriving in Iraq in April of 2003, the large camps and bases present in Iraq today were just beginning. Christopherson's unit spent most of their nights outdoors or in abandoned buildings during an attack.
"There have been a lot of changes they've done over there to make creature comforts better, but its still a war zone and the guys over there now still have a hard time like we did dealing with the everyday stresses of being in a combat environment," said Christopherson.
A decade worth of soldiers have experienced the friendships built and lost in those combat zones.
"Friendships tend to build faster in a time of stress it seems so it was always hard and you would loose friends; some of them you lost in front of you, others you'd hear they were out on a convoy or something when the attack happened," said Christopherson.
The Iraq War has taken the lives of nearly 4,500 service members and wounded more than 32,000. Christopherson says nothing can make up for the lives that were lost, but he finds some comfort in the positive changes he helped create.
"When we first went in you saw school kids running around dirty, playing in the streets. Girls didn't go to school at that time and then towards the end of our tour, you saw these kids wearing school uniforms, the boys and girls, so they were going to school and getting an education," said Christopherson.
Christopherson's experience as a medic in Iraq will be with him forever, but it also prepared him for his job as head of Sanford's Trauma Department.
Everyone who has served in Iraq has their own story of how that experience impacted their life. You can share your story on KSFY's Facebook Page.
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