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Disheartened N.J. veterans, families wonder if the sacrifice in Iraq, Afghanistan was worth it


Disheartened N.J. veterans, families wonder if the sacrifice in Iraq, Afghanistan was worth it

JUNE 12, 2014, 6:30 PM    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 2014, 11:45 PM

Discouragement. Sadness. Renewed heartache for lives lost. Resignation: that feeling of having known from the start how it would end.

And all of it profoundly felt.

The full-blown Islamist offensive in Iraq is sparking those feelings, and more, in North Jersey veterans and families who sacrificed time and blood to a sense of patriotic duty in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are keeping close watch on the situation — and are wholly disappointed with the failure of American-trained and -equipped government forces.

Related: Obama: US will send fresh help to beleaguered Iraq

“This is a prime example of what failing to complete a mission looks like, and this is what Afghanistan will look like in the future,” said Matt Bombace, a former Marine infantry sergeant who fought in Iraq in 2005 and at 27 is the youngest man to serve as commander of the Washington Elm VFW Post 192 in Ridgewood.

But more to the emotional point for many was the reaction of John Walter Wroblewski of Jefferson, who has visited the spot in Iraq where his Marine son, John Thomas, was fatally shot in 2004.

“Did our sons die in vain?” Wroblewski, the longtime athletic director at Palisades Park High School, wondered. “I am extremely proud of my son. I am proud of what he did. All the blood that was spilled just in taking Ramadi, and here we are giving it back. It’s just disheartening.”

Related: Iraq Sunni militant group vows to march on Baghdad

Dozens of North Jersey men died between the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the U.S. departure in 2011. Thousands of New Jerseyans in active duty, reserve and National Guard units fought there, in Afghanistan or both. The largest combat deployment of the state’s National Guard since World War II — 2,900 from the “Jersey Blues” 50th Infantry Brigade Combat team — was in Iraq in 2008.

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