Young Iraq War Veteran Reflects on War's End

December 15, 2011 Updated Dec 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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December 15, 2011 Updated Dec 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM EDT

(Hamburg, NY) Airman 1st Class Olivia Wilhelm returned from her first tour-of-duty in Iraq in late October 2011.

The 22-year old Hamburg, NY woman is a member of the 107th Airlift Wing based in Niagara Falls, NY.

"What I take away from it is an appreciation of life and everything in it," says Olivia Wilhelm.

Wilhelm is one of many Iraq War veterans who were just young children when the war started in 2003.

Her experience in Iraq was a combination of hard work, scary moments when insurgents attacked with mortars, and tender interaction with poor young Iraqi children.

A member of the NY Air National Guard, A1C Wilhelm was assigned to a Force Protection and Anti-Terrorism Unit based at the Baghdad Airport.

She was in Iraq when it was announced that the troops would be brought home by the end of the year.

"We wanted to come home but we couldn't focus on that because we had to focus on our mission and why we were there," adds Wilhelm.

Now that the War in Iraq has been formally shut down, Olivia Wilhelm says she is proud to have been a part of it, but glad it is over.

"Everyone I worked with, and served with, we all think that it is time to come home"