MOSUL, Iraq — When 1st Lt. Rusty Morris joined the Army in 2005, he did so because he believed in the war and thought the time had come to do his part.

“I believe in fighting the war on terrorism,” said Morris, 27, of Sumter, S.C. “I didn’t want to be a person who agreed with it, but didn’t want to go.”

Moving from behind a desk at a credit union, Morris now finds himself on the front lines of the war in Iraq, leading a 21-man scout platoon on the streets of Mosul for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

“It’s a chance to do a big thing in the world, to be a part of history, to do something better,” he said.

That seems a rare sentiment, given that less than one percent of the U.S. population is shouldering the burden of the war, and what passes for patriotism often amounts to little more than bumper stickers on cars.

But it’s not uncommon in Iraq to hear soldiers describe those kinds of reasons for joining up. In Killer Troop’s 3rd Platoon, some enlisted because they wanted to fight. Others wanted experience in the world. Some wanted money for college. Some just wanted to make a better life for themselves.

For Spc. Jeremy Epps, 28, of Indianapolis, the Army meant a steady paycheck. A carpenter who had been laid off one too many times, he had a wife and three children to support.

“I needed a better lifestyle for my family,” said Epps, who enlisted in the Army by pure chance on Sept. 11, 2001, and is now on his second deployment. “I definitely had to make a move. The Army has benefitted me tremendously since then. One thing I can say is that I never regretted joining the Army.”

Sgt. Cole “Doc” Weih, 27, of Dubuque, Iowa, joined in 2003 after living in Australia for 10 years and graduating college there. He came back home, but soon realized that small-town America wasn’t for him. One of his grandfathers had served in World War II, and he felt the same sense of duty.

“It’s a commitment,” said Weih, a medic, who is on his first deployment. “I joined for the experience. I joined for eight years to get as much out of it as I could.”

Pfc. Josh Johnson signed up at age 17, partly because he wanted money for college, but mostly because he felt like he needed some discipline and responsibility in his life. He’s been in the Army for a year and nine months, and is on his first deployment.

“It’s not what I expected,” said Johnson, 20, of Tecumseh, Neb. “I thought it was going to be all sand and people constantly trying to kill us. I didn’t think it was going to be so urban.”

Some soldiers say they’re glad they’re not seeing more action.

Pfc. Brandon Main, 21, of Everett, Wash., joined the Army almost two years ago thinking that Iraq would be full of firefights.

“But I’m grateful that it’s not,” said Main. “That kind of stuff messes people up.”

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