By Paul Kurtz and Steve Patterson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Local U.S. military veterans are watching the advance of Sunni militants across Iraq with increasing anxiety.
Three years after American boots left the ground, Veterans who saw their fellow friends and soldiers bleed and cry and die are now questioning why they ever went in the first place.
Iraq War Vet Joe Dimond is one of those men.
“You’d be lying if you weren’t sitting at home saying, ‘What the hell was that all for?’” Dimond says. “It’s devastating. Sure, the blood sweat and tears, but even being away from your family for that long. All the little things that people don’t think about. And you’re saying, ‘For what?’ now.”
Dimond, a former Marine Sgt. on the ground in 2006, said all the pain and death felt like it meant something if it meant stability for the country.
Now, after the withdrawal of American Troops revealed even more instability and larger insurgency, Dimond says the military community only feels resentment.
He just spoke to the mother of a friend who was killed.
“[His]mother just reached out to me,” he said. “It’s such a damn shame, it’s a mother’s worst nightmare: My son died for nothing.”
Dimond is now the General Manager of Dynamic Defense Systems, a defense company that develops specialized deployable ballistic barriers called McCurdy’s Armor, named for a fellow soldier and friend killed by Sniper Fire in the now overrun region of Fallujah.
Other veterans just can’t believe how quickly the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.
“My post-traumatic stress right now is at its highest level that it could be,” says Sam Console, a proud veteran who served with the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in the city of Baiji.
Roughly 8,000 ISIS forces have carved a wide swath through the center of Iraq, taking over two big cities along the way.
“Most of what we did is being burned. If you see humvees burning, those are the humvees that we left behind.”
Now, they’re gunning for Baghdad.
When the last American forces left, it was hoped that government soldiers would stabilize the country. Instead, they’re on the run.
“It really is time for Iraq to step up,” Console says. “And if they’re coming south, let them put everybody they can hold together on the line and push back to the north.”
U.S. Army veteran Steve Madonna says he doesn’t want to see another coalition invasion, but he says something must be done to stop the ISIS advance. Console agrees but is more sanguine.
“The veterans I’ve talked to that I served with in Iraq, we’ve kind of agreed that this kind of a worst-case scenario and we’re helpless now,” Console tells KYW Newsradio. “What we did, we did. It’s done. And who we lost, we lost. They’re gone. I don’t know. We’re watching and waiting, you know.”
“The only way you’re going to win a war like this is educating,” says Former Marine Brendan Gurry.
Gurry says he’s angry at the Obama Administration for withdrawing troops in the first place. He said he isn’t sure what the way forward is, but he was taught that the only way to fight rampant destabilization is to win the hearts and minds — which would mean going back.
“They’re told Americans are bad every day,” he said. “That’s what they’re going to believe unless they see or meet Americans.”