KATHLEEN, Ga. — In Kathleen, some Marine veterans of Fallujah reunited for the first time Friday after 17 years apart.
The Battle of Fallujah happened in the early 2000s in Iraq.
One big family of 14 highly-decorated Marines spent the morning throwing axes and catching up.
"Even in the Marine Corps, we are always considered brothers, but I have a ridiculous strong bond with all of these Devil Dogs. I got all my brothers here. We are just going to have a good time," Randy Wynn said.
Nine months ago, Wynn started planning their Fallujah reunion.
"We all needed to talk. We all needed to see each other. We need the camaraderie. We all have PTSD. We have memories that we suppress from our families that we can talk with each other and only with each other," Wynn said.
It was a gathering of fellow brothers healing together to get through the past.
"Some were able to deal with it positively. Some had, not negative, but they had to work through things, but they are all coming back to a good place," Donald Crosser said.
"Out of all the therapies that are out there. This is the best therapy for our brains, being with each other," Chad Huffstler, who was a sergeant, said.
Some of them earned Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts, Presidential Unit Citations, and Navy Achievements Medal of Valor.
"Hit the tarmac in Fallujah, and we got out. We didn't get out seats, bags off the plane, and they were shooting 6-foot rockets into the base and ended up killing the executive officer, the Battalion Executive Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major -- and that was within minutes, day one, and it never stopped," Michael Connors said.
"I'll be honest with you. When I first left the Battle of Fallujah and left the Marine Corps, it took me about four years to leave the battlefield," Wynn said.
Fallujah veterans reunion
"It's always good to talk about shared experiences, remembering things we have done, people who are not here. By getting those feelings off your chest, it's a world of difference, because if you bottle them, at some point, you explode, so if it's not a brother, find someone you can speak to and get those feelings out. It'll make you feel a lot better," Crosser said.
"It's just good to know there are people out there that can guide you, past you some experience and some knowledge, and even throw you a helping hand if you need," Connors said.
"It's awesome. This is a great feeling to be together. It's a great feeling to be here with my brothers. It is my brother's house, but these are my brothers who come into his house," Wynn said.
Friends and brothers always connected through their service and hardships of the past.
Randy Wynn, who was a Sergeant, joined the United States Marine Corps at 29 years old, after 9/11. He served in the military for four years.
Donald Crosser, who was a Gunnery Sergeant, joined at the age of 19 right after high school. He served for 20 years in the United States Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant.
Michael Connors, who was also a Gunnery Sergeant, also joined at the age of 19. He served the United States Marine Corps for 20 years and three months and was deployed to Iraq multiple times. His grandfather served in the Army during World War II. That's who inspired him to join the military.
They all served in Fallujah from the fall of 2004 to the spring of 2005.
These American heroes flew in from several states: Michigan, Kentucky, California, New Hampshire, Ohio, and more.
Wynn says they planned one more get together here before they split up and go home.
He says Saturday morning at 11 a.m., you can find them and buy them a beer at Rigby's Water Park in Warner Robins.