In 2004, as Tulsi was campaigning for re-election to the State House, the 29th Brigade Combat Team was called up and began preparing to deploy to Iraq. Tulsi’s name was not on the mandatory deployment roster, but she knew there was no way she could stay behind in beautiful Hawaii as her brothers and sisters were sent off to war.
She left an easy win to re-election and volunteered to deploy.
The first day Tulsi arrived at her camp in Iraq, she saw a large sign at one of the gates that read, “Is today the day?” It was a blunt reminder that today may be the day that any of the soldiers would be called to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It caused her to reflect on her own life and the reality that each of us could die at any moment.
While serving in a base in the Sunni Triangle at the height of the war, Tulsi had the heart-wrenching daily responsibility of going through the list of every injury and casualty in the entire theatre of operations, looking to see if any soldiers in her unit were on the list, so she could ensure they received the care they needed and their families were notified.
She was hit with the enduring pain and hardship of her brothers and sisters in uniform, and the stress and pressure on their families. She wondered if those who voted to send soldiers to Iraq really understood why they were there—if lawmakers and the President reflected daily on each death, each injury, and the immeasurably high cost of war.
Having experienced first-hand the true cost of war, she made a personal vow to find a way to ensure that our country doesn’t continue repeating the mistakes of the past, sending our troops into war without a clear mission, strategy, or purpose.