Today marks ten-years since soldiers from Combat Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, including Specialist Jeffrey Wershow, a 22-year-old Florida Army National Guardsman from Gainesville, cut through two built-up earthen berms between Jordan and Iraq; just two days before Coalition Forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom March 21, 2003.
Wershow can be seen in a video from that night, through the green haze of the night-vision lens, planting the American and Florida flags beside a breach in the defensive wall in Northern Iraq.
“Using simple tools, instead of large pieces of equipment, Wershow and his fellow soldiers remained undetected,” Florida National Guard Lieutenant Colonel James Evans in St Augustine told Historic City News today. “Their actions helped enable Special Forces teams to secure Basra and the surrounding petroleum fields, paving the way for the main invasion force to move into Iraq.”
The unit continued on to serve in Baghdad — where, four months later, Wershow became the 26th United States soldier killed in Iraq. In all, 18 Florida Guardsmen died in the past 10 years while serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, Evans told reporters.
These proud and dedicated Florida Guardsmen went into the fight before the fighting officially started and have continued the fight, with nearly 100 overseas deployments of our Florida National Guard units over the past ten years.
“Just as Florida Guardsmen were there when the war in Iraq began, Florida Guardsmen were also some of the last Soldiers to leave the country when the last combat troops withdrew from Iraq,” Evans added.
In the early morning of December 18, 2011, Soldiers from the Florida National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment provided security from the air for the ground convoys as the last Soldiers and vehicles exited Iraq. They were part of the last Army aviation unit to fly combat missions in support of Operation New Dawn.
Florida National Guard Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment took part in the initial invasion of Iraq by clearing two large berms on the border between Iraq and Jordan, allowing Special Forces Soldiers to cross into Iraq. This heritage painting depicts a scene where Spc. Jeffrey Wershow, who was later killed in action in Baghdad, planted the U.S. and Florida flags at the site.