[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/20/art.wolf2006.cnn.jpg caption="Blitzer: My trip to Iraq was intense and powerful."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three years ago today, I was in Iraq. I went around the country – from Baghdad to Basra, from Falluja to Mosul and Balad. I had flown there with the then commander of U.S. Forces in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid.
I remember everything I saw because it was so intense and powerful. The images were amazing. But some things continue to stand out, especially at this time of the year.
I vividly remember watching hundreds of troops pray at a Sunday Easter Mass service in Baghdad, and their prayers were intense. The military chaplain’s words were deeply religious. Watching the men and women pray took on a whole new meaning for me that day. So many of the troops later told me they were praying simply to be able to survive the war in one piece. They were praying for their fellow troops. They didn’t want to die in Iraq. They didn’t want to be severely injured.
When I was there with Gen. Abizaid three years ago, more than 1,500 American troops had been killed in Iraq. Now, the number has reached 4,000.
I was thinking about that prayer service this past Easter weekend. Most of those troops I saw in Baghdad that day are probably home right now. But some of them are also no doubt back in Iraq serving a second or even third tour of duty. The soldiers have 15 month rotations in Iraq though the Pentagon is hoping to reduce that soon to 12 months. These men and women who serve are all volunteers and their sacrifices are enormous.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer