It's been 10 years since Americans sat glued to their televisions as the invasion of Iraq unfolded before our eyes. Though it was frightening for all of us, the sights and sounds of the bombs falling over Baghdad echoed even louder that day for Roy Velez, whose youngest son was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
"When I saw it on TV I thought, I can't be there to protect him," Velez said.
Despite his fears, Velez couldn't have been prouder that his 22-year-old son, Fred, was fighting on the frontlines of Iraq.
"I knew we had a mission to accomplish. And we set out to do it," Velez said.
Velez recalls the phone conversations he would have with his son while overseas.
"You need to know that war is Hell, Daddy. War is Hell. I didn't grow up learning to kill," Velez said.
But then, nearly 2 years after the war began, Fred Velez was killed by enemy fire.
"You never think you're going to lose a son, but now I know the most difficult task was coming," Velez said.
Velez's older son, Andrew, 23, had enlisted after his brother and was also serving in the Middle East. A year and a half after Velez laid his first son to rest, Andrew took his own life while on a tour in Afghanistan.
"Sometimes I still call their names out. I call them by name and I so want to hear them answer me," Velez said.
Years later the heartache is still vivid for this father but he refuses to let the bitterness consume him.
"I agree that today is a better day than yesterday. I am very proud of my boys and what they've done for America," Velez said.
He chooses to celebrate the lives of his sons and what they did to keep our country safe.
"I've never changed my perspective. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I get angry, sometimes it's hard to smile, but I know it was all for good," Velez said.
All he asks now on this 10th anniversary is that others take a moment to pause and remember the sacrifices.
"I don't want any accolades, but I want people to stop and remember those who have lost a solider or a wounded warrior," Velez said.
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