They've been serving in Iraq for about six months, halfway through a one year deployment. Now some of the 149th Mountain Warrior Battalion soldiers are coming home on leave and they're bringing pictures and stories with them. One soldier tells us why the children of Iraq have been the biggest surprise in his tour of duty.
"Whenever you go out and actually see the effects the war before you brought, with the houses, and the people that are just scared, the locals scared day to day, it sets in to be a reality," said Spc. Chris Hoskins, 149th Battalion Soldier
Hoskins say his tour of duty in Iraq is often about helping local Iraqis get through another day.
"You kind of forget what is happening in the state, and how we live, and you get wrapped up in how they live," he said.
And one of the biggest surprises he says, are the children.
"It's sad when you're going out on patrol and you've got some kid yelling, "Mister, mister, you got shoes," Hoskins said.
Shoes, candy, and even Band-Aids are popular items among the Iraqi children. This Mountain Warrior medic is looking at a cut on an Iraqi boys' foot. That help, a game of soccer, or just the smiling faces, Hoskins says, those are the memories that make his sacrifice worth it.
Hoskins also says seeing the lives of local Iraqis makes him thankful for his life back home and their families are always on the soldiers minds.
"It's that phone call, mailing the letter, the package, the emails that we get up and check every morning that keep us going," Hoskins said.
Hoskins hopes that someday, these children will grow up and remember the kindness of Americans, but he says that if he's made a difference for just one person, he's done enough.
"It's a soldier’s life. We go out and put our boots on every day and put our uniform on and we know that what we do may not be glorified, but we don't expect things. We just go out and hope to make a change," he said.
Hoskins leaves Monday morning to finish his year of service. The Mountain Warriors are expected to finish their tour of duty in Iraq in September. The 149th Battalion is based out of Barbourville. It's the largest single deployment from Kentucky since World War Two with nearly 500 men currently in Iraq.