Local soldiers remember Operation Iraqi Freedom, 10 years later - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local soldiers remember Operation Iraqi Freedom, 10 years later

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Any soldier who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom can remember the day 10 years ago when President Bush made the declaration that forces had moved across the border into Iraq.  

It was seven months later that a local unit of the Louisiana National Guard found out they would be joining the forces in combat.

"It was October of 2003 that we first started hearing the rumblings of our unit being deployed to go to Iraq in support of OIF - Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Major Aaron Duplechin of the Louisiana National Guard. 

In that unit along with Duplechin was Sergeant First Class James Lasher. For the two men from Lake Charles, who joined the National Guard in the early 90s, Iraqi Freedom would be their first combat mission. 

"Waiting to go is extremely anxious because you don't know what to expect," said Lasher. 

"We train hard and we are prepared for the worst and I'll tell you some days the worst seemed to come all at once," Duplechin said. "Overall, I think we were prepared and we carried out or mission very well." 

They served in Iraq between 2004 and 2005, fighting alongside active duty military members and working closely to secure the citizens of Baghdad. 

"Getting shot at on a daily basis it just became - it became a normal duty day," said Duplechin.  "I mean there was always, always in the skyline smoke from an IED." 

Along the way, the unit lost over 30 soldiers. Six from Lake Charles' 3rd Infantry Brigade who are memorialized in the Lake Charles headquarters.

"We'll never forget those soldiers and their sacrifices that they made," said Duplechin. "They paid the ultimate sacrifice and we won't forget that."

Five years later, Duplechin and Lasher found themselves back in Iraq. This time, taking a backseat to Iraqi security forces and working in more of a transitional role. 

"We provided convoy escorts again that was a totally different experience from our first experience," said Lasher. 

Two experiences in a war that has shaped the history of the world and not only changed things overseas, but changed the men and women serving there. 

"We learned a lot about each other, we developed a lot of friendships between ourselves and a lot of bonds that will probably last a lifetime," Lasher said.

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