Baker remains convinced the war was the right thing to do. He’s a First Sergeant and was in Bahrain when the fighting broke out one year ago. “Obviously we were nervous, but once the bullets started flying, we knew what we were doing was right. We knew the mission we had was just.”
Baker says conditions were tough in those first few months. But, the Iraqi civilians were generally friendly to the soldiers. He and some of his unit even got to swim in a pool at one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.
Still, the weeks and months away from his wife and baby boy dragged by. “Normally a year goes by and you think, boy, what happened to that year, it went so quick. But when you spend a year away from your family, every day is painfully long.”
More than five thousand Florida National Guard soldiers were called to active duty during the war. More than two thousand of those soldiers would serve in Iraq. Four were killed in action and a hundred more wounded.
But even with the debate now over the lack of weapons of mass destruction being found, Baker is convinced the US was right to take out Saddam. “While we were there, they discovered many mass graves. We heard personal stories of torture and mistreatment under the Saddam regime. Just by being there, it really opened my eyes as to what a tyrannical evil dictator the man was."
Baker received a hero's welcome upon his return to the state capitol. He says hopes Americans will continue to support the troops, even if many don't support the war. Six hundred Florida National Guard soldiers are still serving in Iraq and another 200 in Kuwait.
A spokesman for the Guard says there has been no drop-off in enlistment since the war effort began. Florida has a total of 10 thousand soldiers in the army national guard and another two thousand in the air national guard.