By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush announced the start of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

It’s been a painful ten years for Iraq war veterans who have been facing challenges ever since.

“My convoy was hit,” says Iraq War veteran Jamal Adkins of Philadelphia (far left in photo).  “I was driving a tractor-trailer when I hit an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).”  Adkins was awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery.

“A lot of us have different problems.  The mental part of it (was) a lot of guys coming back with PTSD  (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he recalls.

Cassondra Flanagan (second from right) did two tour of duties in Iraq.  She says transitioning back to civilian life was difficult.

“I think, mentally, I was still a soldier, so everything  that bothered me I said I could suck it up and drive on.  And then at some point you realize, wait a minute, I keep trying to drive on but the weight is getting heavier and there’s a lot to suck up and I think I’m full now.”

Both Adkins and Flanagan now help other veterans as case managers at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, on North 4th Street in Old City.  The organization will be holding a job luncheon on Friday designed to show the benefits of hiring former military personnel.

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