Remembering Operation Iraqi Freedom

On March 20, 2003, coalition ground forces pushed into Iraq, one day after coalition aircraft and cruise missiles began surgical strikes on leadership compounds in Baghdad. On March 21, 2003, coalition air forces launched large-scale air strikes against the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Thus began Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military campaign that ousted Hussein and gave Iraqis a chance at establishing a democratic nation. “We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service,” said President Obama in a statement commemorating the 10th anniversary. “And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home front,” he added. “The American people will always honor the sacrifices of the 4,475 US service members who died in Iraq, and the more than 32,000 who came home wounded,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a statement. “We must never lose sight of the tremendous sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform made,” said Hagel. The last US troops pulled out of Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011. (For more, see Iraqi Freedom and the Air Force from Air Force Magazine’s March issue and The Last Days in Iraq from the magazine’s 2012 archive.)