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Lance Cpl. Lindon Atwood, 24, Lakeville, Mass., of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, a Marine reserve unit in Fallujah: “It’s going to be a long process. It seems like we’re getting nowhere, but this is a long process. They’ve been fighting over here for hundreds of years. We can’t just jump into this and think we’re going to get this done in five years. If we can get some sort of impact, some accomplishment or some solidity in this country, then I think it will be worthwhile. Some people would say, ‘no,’ though, because they’ve lost friends.”

Sgt. Tim Wittmer, 26, of Peoria, Ill., Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. Wittmer, a reservist, has served two tours in Fallujah. His first tour was during the big push to oust insurgents from this city in fall of 2005: “Do I think what we’re doing is worthwhile? Absolutely. Arguments about why we went to war are obsolete. The point is, we broke it, we bought it. If we were to leave right now, it would be survival of the fittest of the most evil terrorists in the world here. If we leave now, we’ll end up getting somebody who is even worse than Saddam.”

Lance Cpl. Jonathan Gallegos, 21, an active-duty Marine with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion in Fallujah: “I’ve got mixed feelings. When I got out here I thought that we would be hookin’ and jabbin’ and getting blown up and popping off rounds all the time. But I have yet to fire a single round. It’s definitely not the war I was looking forward to. … I feel that we’re really changing things and I think we’ve helped to save a lot of Marines’ lives, but my feelings are mixed. Sometimes it’s like we’re fighting for a lost cause because these people don’t want to change. Maybe we should just let them be them, and us be us.”

All of the following soldiers are members of 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, of the 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colo. All are stationed at Logistics Support Area Anaconda:

Spc. Joseph Garrison, 20, a medic from Houston: “I believe what I’m fighting for is freedom, so yes, it’s the right thing to be fighting for.”

2nd Lt. Casey Russell, 24, a medical platoon leader from New Kingston, N.Y.: “It is worthwhile. It’s worthwhile to give [Iraq] the ability to modernize, to have all the benefits they can achieve.”

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeff Vuono, 40, of Alexandria, Va., a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and on his second tour in Iraq since 2003: “I knew someone who was on the plane that hit the first World Trade Tower … If by my presence over here, if I can prevent that from happening again on American soil, I am willing to be here as long as it takes.”

Spc. Dustin Silvis, 23, from Fort Carson, Colo.: “I think we’ve done what we need to do and it’s time for us to go home. For us, being able to come here and liberate them from under Saddam’s regime was worthwhile.”

What they said

See the results of Stars and Stripes' survey of deployed troops on the topics of:

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