December 10th, 2011
02:22 PM ET

As Iraq war ends, families across U.S. welcome troops home

With virtually all American troops scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of the year, thousands of them are coming home this month – many of them sooner than expected, to the delight of their families.

As of last week, more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed in Iraq, down from 170,000, and the number was dropping daily. Iraqi security forces, including army and police officers, are to assume full responsibility for the country's security by the end of the year under a deal agreed to by Iraq and the United States.

The withdrawal will bring to an end the war that began in 2003 with the toppling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Only about 150 U.S. troops are expected to remain after the December 31 deadline, to assist in arms sales, a U.S. official told CNN, though a large private security force will protect the thousands of State Department workers and contractors staying behind after the withdrawal deadline.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the troop withdrawal in October, cutting some units’ deployments short. His announcement followed news that negotiations to extend the deadline broke down after Iraq's top political leaders refused to grant U.S. troops legal immunity, opening up the prospect of soldiers being tried in Iraqi courts and being subjected to Iraqi punishment.

The following is a collection of reports from troop homecomings across the country:

Last large group of Lewis-McChord troops returns

The final large group of troops from Washington state’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord returned home from Iraq on Tuesday, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

One hundred seventy troops from the 17th Fires Brigade and 62nd Medical Brigade filed off a plane and into a building for a homecoming ceremony, reported.

One of the 170, Staff Sgt. Michael Welsh, told CNN he had ended his fourth deployment.

“Just proud of what we did, and hopefully we won’t have to do it again,” he said.

Over the course of the nearly nine-year war in Iraq, the base lost 200 soldiers and one airman as a result of combat, disease or accident in Iraq, reported.'

Home and Away: Coalition casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq

iReport assignment: Stories from the Iraq war

Maine ‘Troop Greeters’ welcome final waves of Iraq soldiers

A group that has been greeting troops at a Maine airport since 2003 is doing its part to give the final waves of Iraq soldiers a hearty welcome home.

The Maine Troop Greeters gather at the Bangor International Airport – a transfer stop for some military flights – whenever they hear of an inbound troop flight.

As soldiers leave their plane for a brief layover at the airport, greeters line up to shake their hands and welcome them to U.S. soil.

“It’s our pleasure to welcome them and to make their stay here as comfortable and as friendly as possible,” greeter Clayton Dodge said.

The group operates a lounge where troops can use prepaid cell phones to make calls to family and friends.

“It means a lot that people are supporting us. It shows that we’re doing something right, that somebody actually cares,” Spc. Stasha McDonald said.

A soldier's last day in Iraq

Fort Hood troops, families relieved Iraq deployments over

At a homecoming ceremony for troops early this month at Fort Hood, Texas, service members and relatives were excited not only for the return, but also because of the knowledge that the days of deployments to Iraq were over.

Troops were treated like rock stars, entering the ceremony room through a gate and manufactured smoke.

“Everyone tried to make the speeches very, very short, because the highlight was seeing these troops rush into the arms of their loved ones, hugging, kissing, trying to catch up over what’s been missed over the last 10 months,” CNN’s Chris Lawrence reported.

Maj. Mike Ianucilli said that there is “a sense of peace knowing there’s one less opportunity for us to be separated from our families.”

“We know we still have our operations going on in Afghanistan, and other contingency operations as they come up, but to know that what has consumed so much of our careers recently as a profession, to know that that’s not there looming over us is certainly peace of mind,” he said.

War in Iraq: What CNN reporters, producers will remember

National Guard welcomed home in San Mateo

In San Mateo, California, members of the California National Guard returned from Iraq to warm greetings from loved ones in early December.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Spc. Leonardo Ramirez, with an arm around his wife, Ria. “We’ve been gone for such a long time. Just happy to be back home.”

Texas soldier surprises daughter on field at football game

In early November, Sgt. Luis Cardenas – just home from Iraq - surprised his daughter at a high school football game in San Antonio, after not seeing her for a year. CNN affiliate KSAT reports in the video above.

soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Gerry

    With no jobs in America hiring, and new news of the troop level draw downs=firing of soldiers jobs. So where do you go if you worked US Army for the last 11 years? I like to stay in another 9 more years then i can retire, but i don't think the US Army wants troops retiring, they are trying to kick us out, so we cannot collect on our retirement. We put our lives on the line for 35Grand a year, and then we get short changed to not be able to complete 20 years, that's sad.

    December 13, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gerry

    Can McCain run again? And can US citizens vote McCain this time? I'd like to keep my job, thank-you. If we have any hope its a Republican President, and i don't care how illiterate her or she is.

    December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Mudfish

      He wanted to keep the military occupying Iraq "for a hundred years if that's what it takes to win." That was McCain's view. And how much would that cost, Tea Klan?

      December 14, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Gerry

    Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich 2013!

    December 13, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Mudfish

      yup, that's who we need. A guy who thinks we have gold mines somewhere in the US, and the most immoral man alive as his VP. If anything could possibly turn our nation back to the status of a 'developing' or 'third-world' nation, it would be those two running the country. GOP house with GOP pres? Goodbye middle class. Get ready to keep paying corporations to create jobs, but they won't create jobs. Obama can only create government jobs, and if we don't have an industrial revolution in this nation we're doomed. The GOP says give the nation to the corporations in the 'free market'. They should be free to charge what they want for their health insurance policies, and so 123 American citizens die every day because they can't afford it. YOU run to the emergency room without insurance and they give you papers to sign and the bill comes to ME. And your vote supports this. I hope you sleep easy.

      December 14, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Naomi

    US Special Forces are massing in Jordan on the Syrian border having been transferred from Iraq. I guess not all the troops will get to come home for the holidays.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Keith

    "Only 150 US Troops will remain" ROFLMAO!!!!!

    December 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. r.ortiz

    thnkyou for your service, to all men and women in uniform to job well done welcome home to your families and loved ones, glad you are back where you belong.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Debrah

    I am looking for families that have had troops return home to them in order to interview them on a school project that i am doing. If you are a family with soldiers that have come home or if you know any please contact me via email. At

    January 11, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Yandri

    "As a rseult, in a few years Obama s Middle East will be a very unsettled place" Do you feel the Middle East is a settled place now with the United States' presence in Iraq? How do you suggest the United States fix the sectarian differences in the Middle East?

    February 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Madalina

    1.) Since Bush and the Republicans have run roughshod over the mldide class for the past two years, I don't doubt that the disparity has increased.2.) Could you ask any more annoying rhetoricals in your second paragraph? Are you turning into Eracus? Did anything you wrote have anything to do with what I said? Don't you think you were just putting words into my mouth? Did I even take a position on whether CEO pay was just? Or was that just an observation? Is the reason you get so offended by that observation the fact that you know your policies will never win over the mldide class?3.) Let's talk about economic illiteracy. Say Ford motors makes $2 billion profit (remember, this is a hypothetical now, I know you have trouble with those so bare with me). $1 billion of that goes into infastructure and innovation. That leaves $1 billion for wages. If we give $200 million to the CEO, that leaves $800 million for the workers. If we give $400 million to the CEO, the pie doesn't expand, it stays the same, leaving only $600 million for the workers (and, incidentally, less money to buy more Ford products). It's pretty simple, really.4.) No one is talking about socialism here except you. I'm talking about reigning in a corrupt corporate culture and paying American workers what they are worth. I'm not sure how the fourth hundred million dollars of a CEO's salary can be construed as one the productive areas of the economy, I'm not sure how that fourth hundred million affect small businesses, and I'm definitely not sure where I said any of it should go to government, but nice try. The American taxpayers subsidize these corporations. If they are going to take American taxpayer dollars, then they need to be active participants in a social contract with the American workforce. Here's the deal: you want to pay your CEO that much and take American taxpayer dollars? Then you have an obligation to pay your workers a decent wage. Want to slash worker pay and increase your own? Then forget about any corporate welfare for you or your company. It is, again, pretty simple.

    March 14, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
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