KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The War in Iraq is now officially over, but for some veterans and families of those who died in Iraq the question still remains: Was it all worth the sacrifice?
On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta held a ceremony in Baghdad formally ending the war after almost nine years. Nearly 4,500 Americans died in the conflict, and another 30,000 returned home with injuries.
Michael Mazzarella's son Anthony was 22 when he died in Iraq in 2005. Six years later, he says that he is still conflicted about whether Iraq was worth American blood.
"They were building schools and water purification plants, so they were some good things going on there to a country that obviously needed that support," said Mazzarella. "But again, at a cost of American lives, is it worth it? I'm still out on that."
Mazzarella says that he is glad to see America's role in Iraq at an end.
"I'm happy to see that we are pulling out. I think we've been there way too long. I think we've expended way too many American lives, and too many Iraqi lives for that matter," said Mazzarella.
Former soldier David McGonigle is now a radiology technician at an area hospital. But in 2005-6, he was deployed in Iraq - a country that he now says the U.S. should have never invaded.
"After being there for awhile and seeing how the people reacted to us and what they thought about us, it kind of felt like it was a waste of time," said McGonigle, who says that, overall, not a lot was accomplished by being there. "Increasing the debt, that's about it."
McGonigle lost a good friend in the conflict, came home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a conviction that most Iraqis saw American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Both McGonigle and Mazzarella say that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, but both seem troubled that weapons of mass destruction - the pretext for the American invasion - were never found.
"From everything I've had to go through, (it) just makes me a little depressed and cynical, really," said McGonigle.