As the anniversary of the war in Iraq approaches, it's difficult to remember the sense of euphoria leading up to the March 2003 invasion.

Having just crushed the Taliban — seemingly forever — the United States was poised to liberate Iraq and drop a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and that would prove to be a death blow to Al Qaeda.

One person who did not get swept up in the tide of enthusiasm was William Burns, then serving as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, who wrote a July 2002 memo that proved prescient on many levels.

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Photo courtesy of Evan Wright

Combat can be fun. As distasteful as that is, it’s also true. Surviving a battle without a scratch is exciting, profound, and invigorating, but what often follows is the sinking realization that you may never feel that alive again.

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Army photo by Spc. Bill Putnam

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while the bulk of American forces entered the country from Kuwait, battling their way through cities like Basra and Najaf en route to Baghdad, a smaller contingent entered from the north. Among them was the 3rd Special Forces Group, which, on the 18th day of the war, engaged in the first major offensive by American forces moving from Kurdistan into government-controlled territory of northern Iraq.

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Air Force photo by Dave Davenport

On April 4, 2003, less than three weeks after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began, Tech. Sgt. Travis Crosby, a tactical air control party specialist (TACP) attached to the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division found himself at the tip of the spear into Baghdad.

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