TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — On March 20, 2003, U.S. Forces began “Operation Iraqi Freedom” with airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace.

Monday, Veterans of the war and families who lost loved ones in combat gathered in Tampa’s Veteran’s Memorial Park to remember the sacrifice of those who served.

“It’s really an emotional time. It takes me back to what feels like just a couple of weeks ago, but as I know from the numbers it’s been right at two decades and I miss the guys that were on my right and left a lot,” said Michael Andre Chiasson, who served with the 5th Marines during the war.

Anthony Derieux also served with the Marines in Iraq and put helped put together Monday’s Ceremony.

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this is for people who are struggling, have somewhere to go and be around their brothers and sisters on a day like this,” said Derieux.

He says ceremonies like this can help people still struggling to deal with the impact of the war on their lives.

“I have a lot of friends that I’ve been seeing online, on Facebook and that stuff that we all keep in touch because we’ve all spread out to all these different states that they are really struggling with what’s going on today and it’s better to be with your brother and sisters and let’s struggle together than be at the bottom of a bottle somewhere,” said Derieux.