Vet's emotional recount after takedown of Ramadi

Posted at 10:00 PM, Dec 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-29 01:00:56-05

Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes drove Islamic State militants out of the center of Ramadi on Monday and seized the main government complex there, according to military officials, who said insurgents are still dug into pockets of the city west of Baghdad.

It was a key victory in the fight against ISIS.

Retired Army Sergeant, Dane Kaimuloa, served for six months in Ramadi in 2006.

When he returned home, he had a hard time sleeping in his bed. Kaimuloa ran a drone camera to scan areas for IED's before troops moved forward. He missed one and watched helplessly as the horror unfolded.

Three soldiers died in that explosion. The nightmare seems to be on loop when he tries to sleep.

"It's comfortable," he said of his bed through tears. "It's like… I don't deserve this."

"So, I was just lost in my own house."

Despite all the lives he saved, those three and all who fell in the fight for Ramadi weigh heavily on his heart.

"It's in the 100's in Ramadi," he said of U.S. troops who paid the ultimate price.

He cares so deeply about honoring the fallen. He turned his entire truck into a mobile memorial, which honors the men and women who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We made a lot of progress [in Ramadi]," Kaimuloa added.

Kids played outside again, and he said that put purpose behind the sacrifices. Then in May, ISIS militants raised the black and white flag of terror.

"It tears you up because all we fought for is lost," he said.

Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, which is controlled by IS, saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year U.S. intervention in Iraq.

In recent months, Iraqi forces launched several offensives to retake Ramadi, but all had stalled. Iraqi troops began advancing into some parts of the city, located about 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Baghdad, earlier this month. But their progress was slowed by snipers, booby traps and the militants' destruction of bridges leading into the city center.

With U.S. help, training and gear, the Iraq flag is flying again.

"Oh, that feels good," Kaimuloa said with a smile. "That feels good."