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One Kansas City veteran said 20 years later she still doesn't understand the war in Iraq

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Three female soldiers kneel for a photo in front of a humvee.
Angela Fitle
Angela Fitle (right) deployed to Iraq in 2004. She volunteered to be part of the female search teams that patrolled off base.

Veterans reflect on their role in the Iraq War, 20 years after President George W. Bush announced the U.S. had accomplished its mission in the country.

In March 2003, the United States and allied forces launched a full-scale invasion into Iraq. Then-president George W. Bush deemed the Iraqi president at the time, Saddam Hussein, a threat, and described a mission of freeing the Iraqi people of their ruthless leader and ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction.

Less than two months after the invasion, on May 1, 2003, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared an end to major combat operations in front of a "mission accomplished" banner. However, Operation Iraqi Freedom would drag on for years, to include the president ordering a surge of troops back to the region, a financial burden of nearly $2 trillion and in total nearly 300,000 lives lost.

Kyleanne Hunter, Ph.D., a former major in the United States Marine Corps, served from 2000-2013 and deployed to Iraq five times.

"I think there was a very clear mission to what we were doing over there, however, you know, as the years drug on, it became less certain what we were there to do," Hunter said.

In spite of the unclear mission, and the financial and physical loss, Hunter said lessons were learned from it all.

"I think what this really shows and the important lesson for us to come back to is the importance of transparency and continued engagement by everyone, by all Americans, not just those that are over there serving, on what it actually really means," Hunter said.

Hunter continued, "This was a huge test case for women being embedded with infantry, and showing that they had both the, your sort of internal fortitude to do it, but could physically do the job just as well."

Prior to the war on terror, the military restricted women's career paths to what were previously considered noncombat roles. Modern warfare and cultural customs forced the military to adapt and recognize the abilities and contributions of female service members.

Angela Fitle, a warehouse soldier by trade, volunteered to be a part of a female search team that supported ground troops with the handling of women and children.

She's proud of the mission she took on, but being a young soldier, she was just following orders. Looking back, she wished she would have known more about what they were doing and why.

"Now as an older person that has received some education, I still don't really know that I understand what was going on with the Iraq War," Fitle said.

  • Angela Fitle, U.S. Army veteran, Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Kyleanne Hunter, Ph.D., U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Operation Iraqi Freedom

Kyleanne Hunter will be the guest speaker for the International Perspectives on Women in the Military, 6 p.m. — 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, 2 Memorial Dr., Kansas City, Missouri 64108.

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