WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — On Sept. 10, 2001, Caleb Moran decided to join the Marines. He packed his things and was excited to head to boot camp the very next day. But when his recruiter picked him up the next morning, the promise of a brighter future quickly turned into abject horror.

“Right before I left, we saw that on the news, and it was kind of like, yeah, it was a crazy time,” Moran said. “They pick up two more people, and I think we were the only people that went to boot camp that day on the west coast.”

Within months after 9/11, Moran would deploy to Japan as part of an artillery unit.

“Since the war started, they didn’t know when we were coming back, and it ended up being like a year because we found out like a week before that we were coming back home, and we were, like, happy,” Moran said.

But sadly, for Moran and his unit, that relief would be short-lived.

“When we came back home, we had to hurry up and get training again and then go over to Iraq,” Moran said.

Moran and his unit, Gulf Battery 211, would be stationed in the Iraqi city of Mudaisis.

“They actually had us as, like, MP, infantry for, for one of the first times instead of doing our normal job, so we trained all this artillery, and then end up doing, you know, like, stopping cars and going through towns and stuff like that,” Moran said.

Moran’s unit helped secure hundreds of kilometers stretching from the city of Fallujah (just west of Baghdad) to the border with Saudi Arabia.

“Some towns didn’t like us, like in Fallujah, they didn’t like us, but, like, in the south towards Saudi Arabia, you know, they’d run to us, you know, all happy, give out candy to the kids and all that, but in Fallujah, it was a little hostile,” Moran said.

Eventually, Moran’s unit would prepare to invade the city of Fallujah.

“Fallujah was everybody, pretty much,” Moran said. “That was really crazy because, you know, usually the Army is like our rivals, and, back here, but over there in war, staging right before Fallujah, we were glad to see them, and I think they were glad to see us, so it wasn’t like a rivalry, it was like, ‘dang, thank goodness, to see somebody else, or another American, or someone on our side.'”

After giving the residents of Fallujah a month to prepare, the day of the invasion came.

“When we almost got to the city, it was like, ‘boom!'” Moran said. “It was really weird going through that big city though, ‘cuz knowing that the big city was just, it was basically attack everything, kind of that day or those few days, and, it was pretty, that was probably the scariest time in my life.”

The ordeal lasted for several days.

“And when you have to go back out the next night, and they’re just sitting there telling you, ‘yeah, most of you are probably going to die’…you could see the mortars just getting closer and closer, and you’re like, ‘oh no, no, no, no,’ and then you see one, and it, and it hits, like, next to [a] vehicle,” Moran said.

Moran’s unit would lose one man during the invasion. He says he’s lucky to have made it back home in one piece.

“People dying that shouldn’t die, and, you know, and a lot of people, it was definitely, a crazy experience going over there…I mean, there was a lot of chaos,’ Moran said.

Moran would spend seven months in Iraq and four years in the Marines. He retired after becoming a corporal.

If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.