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Iraq war: Dealing with the 'worst kind of pain'

  • Story Highlights
  • iReporters share their thoughts on how the Iraq war has affected their lives
  • "Having [my husband] gone is the worst kind of pain," one woman says
  • Wife: Invasion changed wedding plans, hubby missed most of first pregnancy
  • iReport.com: Tell us how the war has impacted you and your family
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(CNN) -- She'll never forget the day her 17-year-old son, John, asked her permission to enlist in the U.S. military. "Mom, I owe this to my country."

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Samantha Schroeder of Chester, Maryland, worries about her 19-year-old son, John, who is deploying to Iraq.

Now, at age 19, her son is a Marine preparing to deploy to Iraq.

"He doesn't care if you do or don't understand his choice; he isn't concerned with political views, religion or race. His greatest concern is doing the job he is asked to do with skill and pride, protecting those abroad and at home and standing up to the standards he has set for himself," Samantha Schroeder said.

iReporters shared an array of stories about how the Iraq war has affected them over the past five years.

One man said he met his wife, a fellow service member, while serving in Iraq.

Others described the pain of having fathers so far away, especially when new children are born. Some military wives said they often keep their true feelings to themselves, fearing that they would affect their husbands' morale in the field. See photos, hear stories of sacrifice »

Below are a selection of responses from iReporters, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Shock & Awe: Five Years Later
CNN's award-winning reporters are on the ground in Iraq. Anderson Cooper brings you to the front lines as only CNN can.
Thursday, 10 p.m. ET

Angela Fritz of Fort Hood, Texas
"Having [my husband] gone is the worst kind of pain. It is the burden I chose to bear but am not happy to. On the outside, I have to stand strong. I have to support my country and my husband, regardless of what I feel. That is the Army way. I am so proud of him for having the courage to step up and serve his country. On the inside, I am angry and worn thin. Of course, I want my husband home, but it's so much more than that now."

Samantha Schroeder of Chester, Maryland
"I am the mother of a 19-year-old Marine. He joined while still in his senior year. When he came to me to sign his enlistment papers, I was hesitant. No, I was downright, 'Not in a million years.' He was only 17. How could I give him permission? Just wait, I asked, and think about it some more. He looked at me with a mixture of fear in thinking I might not sign and anger in knowing I didn't understand. And what he said next has stuck in my head through all his training, and now he leaves in a week for Iraq. He told me, 'Mom, I owe this to my country.' ...

"Now, as he prepares for Iraq deployment, I am a little better prepared for what the future holds mentally. But to me, he and most of the men who will accompany him are so young. They still seem like boys to me, but I know they are men. Willing to serve their country. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday, and I also remember the fear that was on that seventh-grader's face when he was bused home early that day and watched the events unfold on the TV. And now he stands as a Marine, willing to sacrifice his everyday freedoms to assure we are safe here at home."

Katherine Shigekane of Virginia Beach, Virginia
"The Iraq war has changed our lives in many ways. My husband has been serving in the Navy for 16 years, and since March 2003, he has been on four different deployments. Our lives have been affected in many ways. Our wedding plans were changed due to the invasion. He missed most of my first pregnancy. He was able to be home for the birth of our twins but left again when they were a year old and was gone until after their second birthday. He is now gone again. ... As a family I think we have learned to appreciate the time we do spend together."

joshM
"While serving in Iraq with the United States Marines, I met my wife. She is in the United States Army. We met while on R&R in Qatar. We did long distance for the remaining time that we had left of our deployment and then another year while I was still stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina. She is still stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After I separated from the Marines as a corporal, I moved to Kentucky to be with her. We are now happily married, and she is on her third tour to Iraq. So even though the news shows all the bad things of war, some good really does come from it."

ChristopherM
"I am a soldier in the U.S. Army. I am a 20-year-old combat veteran. I returned home this past summer and enrolled in college with hopes of going to law school. Unfortunately, with future deployments likely to postpone my schooling, I will be in college long past traditional college years. That is just a minor nuisance compared with the fact that relating to my family and friends is infinitely more difficult since I've returned. I find myself zoning out and going back to the war during family functions and when I'm out with my friends, I apparently talk in my sleep about the war and occasionally sleepwalk."

Sierra Derrick of Waymart, Pennsylvania
"This is the second time my husband is deploying to Iraq, and trust me, it only gets harder!! The first time, I was 17 years old, two months pregnant and a brand-new bride. (We got married literally the day before he left.) Now, exactly four years later, we are in the same situation, although things are a little different. Together we have two amazingly beautiful little boys, Connor and Carson, ages 3 and 1. Needless to say, he is their hero as well as mine.

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"The impact that this war has had on our family has been extraordinary. We are so incredibly proud of him in ways that civilian families couldn't comprehend. We have been brought closer because of these deployments, and the support we have is absolutely phenomenal.

"In that sense, I believe it has been worth it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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