This week marked the four-year anniversary of the launch of the Iraq War, and Maj. Dave Ditz said he thinks the United States did the right thing, despite the change in public support.
Ditz, who served in Iraq with the 216th Engineer Battalion in Tikrit, said four years might seem like a long time longer than some Americans expected but it takes time to change a culture that was under an "extreme, brutal dictator."
"We need to stay there until they're ready. If we pull out, we'll lose all credibility," said Ditz, the K-9 officer for the Norwalk Police Department. He added that America still has troops in Germany, Japan and Korea. "If you're doing benchmarks and timetables, then technically we should have been out of there, too."
Norwalk resident Jeff Van Natta, whose son Carlo, a radio operator in the 101st airborne division, was seriously injured in Iraq injured last year by an IED, now has a daughter in the Air Force. Whether she is headed to Iraq, Van Natta can only guess, but his son, recovered from his injuries and currently at a base in Kentucky, more than likely has another tour in Iraq in front of him.
"He can deal with it," Van Natta said. "Before he didn't want to ... it's just a tough thing for him. His test will be the IED thing on his first patrol. If he gets through that, and I think he will, he'll be fine."
While he is torn about whether the United States should have gone into Iraq in the first place, Van Natta, a Vietnam era veteran, supports the increase in troop levels because he believes it will actually help get the troops home faster.
"Now that we're in there, we've got to stay there," he said. "We have to make sure (the Iraqi) people are safe. We have to finish the job."
The drop in public support for the war disappoints Ditz, who said America is safer because of the war.
"I think its a good thing we're doing," he said "We're safer there because if we're fighting over there, than we're not fighting here."
Ditz also said not enough of the good things happening in Iraq get reported nationally. For example, his battalion helped build numerous improvements to the area, including a police station. Instead, he said, the national media focuses on the negatives.
Of the 600 troops Ditz served with in the 216th, he said 95 percent are ready to go back and serve another tour, despite the fact that three members of the battalion were killed.
"They believed in what they were doing. They still believe in it," he said.
Van Natta, on the other hand, said his son does not talk much about the politics of the war, focusing only on the job he has to do while he's over there. The situation is difficult for the family.
"As a parent of a service person ... I worry every day he's over there I'm going to get a call or a visit. Every parent goes through the same thing," he said. The only time the Army calls or visits is to be the bearer of devastating news.
"I don't know if I could even answer the door."