One former soldier spent days on patrol in the Shula neighborhood of Baghdad, trying to win over the locals while also rooting out makers of improvised explosive devices. Another was a flight engineer perched in the back of a Chinook helicopter, helping ferry special forces teams around Iraq.

Now these Baton Rouge-area veterans are back home, taking in the news that sectarian violence is once again ripping the country apart. They are aghast as cities once successfully fought over by U.S. troops are taken by Sunni militants.