Iraq war vet honors soldiers

May 25, 2009 This holiday is a time to salute the men and women of America's fighting forces, both dead and living.

One Iraq war veteran from Chicago is taking the time on Monday to remember all of the soldiers who have come before him as well as the country he always wanted to serve.

"To be back is good, but as long as there are troops overseas, every one of us wants to be over there with them," said Specialist Joe Stranski, Iraqi war veteran.

At 22, Specialist Joe Strasnki is one of the youngest veterans assembled at this Memorial Day ceremony in Lombard but he has already had experiences of a lifetime during the year he served in Iraq.

"Traveled everyday on Route Irish," said Specialist Stranski.

Route Irish is a notoriously dangerous 7 mile stretch of road, where troops are often attacked by improvised exploding devices.

In 2006, Stranski was a gunner with his national guard unit, the 178th infantry regiment out of Chicago. He says everyone made it back safely, and he knows how lucky they are.

"It's very bittersweet. I feel bad for the families and loved ones. I just lost a close friend who I went to Iraq with in Afghanistan," said Specialist Stranski.

Stranski says he always wanted a life in the military, enlisting as soon as he could after his junior year in high school and also, not long after the start of the Iraq war.

"I was 17, and I found out I could get in at 17. I went ahead and did it. And that time, when you joined, you knew that you were going to war," said Specialist Stranski.

And now that he's back and has joined the ranks of war veterans across the country, Stranski says he has an even deeper appreciation for memorial day.

"It's something that I hope is not one day of the year…bumper sticker that says support our troops or something like that," said Specialist Stranski.

Stranski is studying criminal justice at the College of DuPage and wants to be a Chicago police officer. He will be deployed by the military next year to Egypt, on a peace keeping mission.

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