BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - On March 19, 2003, Andrew Whittaker did not know he would join the Marines.
He watched the Iraq War begin that day, just as many people did across Green Country.
"I knew it was something that had to be done and they were fighting for a good cause," he said.
In 2005, the now 26-year-old realized that college was not for him, so he enlisted.
Looking back he said, "The Marines seemed like a thing to build leadership and discipline and seemed like a good idea to do."
Whittaker was deployed to Iraq in 2006. On April 28, 2006, 26 days after his tour began, he was driving a Humvee that rolled over a roadside bomb.
"It flipped the Humvee and blew it to a bunch of pieces," he said. "Three of the marines, of the five that were in the Humvee, were killed."
Whittaker suffered several injuries and went to Qatar to recover. A month later, he had the choice of going to California or going back to Iraq.
Whittaker went back in to battle, saying, "I wasn't leaving my guys."
He finished his tour and completed a second deployment in 2008.
Looking back on his time in Iraq, Whittaker believes the war was necessary.
"A terrorist can't attack the United States of America and not expect anything to happen," he said. "If you don't go over there and retaliate for what they did to our country, everyone will just run right over us."
Today, Whittaker lives in Broken Arrow with his wife and daughter. He is employed by the City of Tulsa.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Also in the headlines
According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, 13-year-old Oscar Duran was hit while riding his bike on State Highway 82 just outside of Tahlequah around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.