“This is the last known picture of him alive,” said John Wroblewski as he showed a picture of his son.
Wroblewski’s son walked into the Iraqi sunset– and hours later, into the bloody firefight that ended his life. The 25-year-old Marine lieutenant died in the fierce battle to take Ramadi a decade ago. Iraqi insurgents recently took it back.
“To say it’s disheartening is an understatement. They’re beheading people, cutting fingers off, the word is 1,700 military have been just executed,” said Wroblewski.
Wroblewski’s athletic director at Palisades Park High School and says, his son JT joined the Marines after 9/11.
“I think he was one of those people you know that God stamped on his head, United States Marine.” said Wroblewski.
JT’s one of 82 New Jerseyans who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their families offer each other comfort and support. In 2008, John even traveled to Iraq’s Anbar Province to visit other Marines deployed there. The firefight continued even then.
He says watching those cities now fall back into enemy hands.
“To me, alright, it just broke my heart. And when I think about the sacrifices of my son– but not only him– of all our war heroes and what they gave, okay? It was not in vain. It was what they believed in,” said Wroblewski.
Wroblewski thinks the U.S. should’ve left some troops deployed in Iraq.
“Dreaming about it, tossing and turning, waking up and saying is this for nothing? I don’t think so. Had we had our forces there– I think we could’ve stopped this like almost before it started. And it’s just a crying shame,” said Wroblewski.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Vic Zlatonovic.
Zlatonovic served in the 173rd Airborne — spent almost year in Iraq, securing air strips in Bashir and Kirkuk. He says, Iraq’s a tragedy.
“A lot of people lost their lives and sacrificed time, effort, blood and treasure– among Americans and Iraqis. I think Iraq had a bright future. Right now, I have to question that,” said Zlatonovic.
Zlatonovic believes, his service wasn’t in vain. But he says at some point the U.S. had to draw the line and leave.
“We couldn’t be in that country forever. We couldn’t hold their hands. At some point, they had to stand up on their own two feet. We gave them considerable resources and opportunities,” said Zlatonovic.
What now? The vets we spoke to say, President Barack Obama has options. But nobody wants to see U.S. troops back in Iraq.