Local Purple Heart recipients reflect on end of Iraqi war | ParkRecord.com

Local Purple Heart recipients reflect on end of Iraqi war

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Edwinn Haga this week, as the U.S. ended the Iraqi war, wondered what was gained since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Haga, who lived in Park City in 2007 and 2008 before moving to the Salt Lake Valley, said in an interview he is pleased that American troops are leaving Iraq.

He said he supported the war in Afghanistan, which started just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Haga, having served there, sees the Iraqi war as being different.

President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in an effort to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction. When no weapons were found, the United States shifted its mission, Haga said, to one of liberation.

"I spent 14 months over there. I have no idea what we actually accomplished. It’s a terrible place to be," Haga said, adding, "Iraq is not the war they try to make it out to be."

Haga, who is 28 years old and now lives in Layton, served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Army. He received a Purple Heart after being injured when a makeshift bomb exploded near him as he guarded an intersection in Iraq in 2006.

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"It was awful. I saw soldiers die, my friends die. It’s not worth some of our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives," Haga said about his time in Iraq.

That no weapons of mass destruction were found influences Haga’s assessment of the war. He said the U.S. did not accomplish "anything" in the Iraqi war. He remains proud of his service and his status as a veteran, though.

Another soldier with ties to Park City who received a Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq said in an interview the Americans accomplished what they set out to do when the war was launched.

Adam Kelley served in Iraq from mid-2007 until mid-2008, suffering a concussion after a roadside bomb was set off as his truck passed in March 2008. Kelley grew up in Park City and now lives in West Jordan. He is a grandson of the late Jim Santy, a Korean War veteran who died in 2010 after a long career as an educator.

"Our goals of the military were met. We did our job to the letter," Kelley said.

He said most Iraqis welcomed the American troops when they arrived in the country. Kelley said the insurgents did not represent a large portion of the Iraqi population.

"The people really wanted this. It wasn’t the Iraqi people fighting against the coalition," Kelley said.

He anticipates Iraqis will be pleased with the end of the war although he expects the United States to keep some sort of presence in the country.

"They want their own independence. They don’t want to be run by another country," Kelley said.