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, SeattlePI.com 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, SeattlePI.com 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. my knee

    It's a shame what the troops and their families had to put up with. The President promised in multiple campaign speeches that the first thing he would do when his term began was to end all the undeclared wars. This is 3 years too late, and the war in Afghanistan goes on. The President even sent troops and sorties into other countries. The Nobel Peace Prize should be callable.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • morph147

      you do know the only reason he got the peace prize in the first place so that way if he did something the rest of the world didnt like they could use the peace prize as something to shame him right?

      December 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      He did exactly that, he said in his campaign he'd reduce Iraq and divert more resources to Afghanistan, all with a timeline taking into account the advice of military leaders. He did exactly that. A judicious drawdown and an inflation in Afghanistan. You got exactly what he said he would do. On both counts. Whether or not you like the President, the facts are he did exactly what he campaigned on.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jrw

      buddy , he said Iraq not all wars..

      December 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • B4Cons

      The previous President, just before leaving office, promised US Troops to Iraq until 2012.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • lucerot

      Obama never said he would end all wars. Specifically, he campaigned repeatedly on the idea that Afghanistan was a "good war", and he'd see it to the end. President Obama's actions as commander in chief has been terrific – considering the fact that Obama spent a measly 1,000th of the cost in US$ while supporting the Libya and Egypt revolutions compared to what we have spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. I encourage you to examine the facts.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. us1776

    Welcome Home to all of our troops!!

    Now we got a lot of work to do around our own country. We've got massive amounts of infrastructure in disrepair. Roads that need rebuilt. Schools that are falling down.

    .

    December 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ty

      Thank you. I never got a welcome home from the first Gulf War. I salute you and am proud that I served this country to protect you.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Ty, that same thing happened to most of the troops that served in Vietnam as well. And so my welcome extends to all troops that served at any time.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TriXen

    The video of the father surprising his daughter at the high school football game... :*)

    December 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bernard

    If you know returning troops, you can honor them with more than words.

    Military Warriors Support Foundation is awarding mortgage-free homes to servicemembers and veterans who have been wounded. The Military Warrior Support Foundation was established to honor and assist returning disabled soldiers with the everyday challenges that they and their loved ones now face. Go to http://militarywarriors.org to find out more.

    Also, there's a coalition of companies that's pledged to hire vets, big companies. Go to http://www.100000jobsmission.com to find out more.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. loathstheright

    Now arrest the War Criminals who lied to America for this illegal war.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      George W. Bush and Dickey Boy Cheney sleep well night even though they caused the deaths of thousands and horrible wounds to other young men and women. They lied to start this war and our nation will be paying for decades.

      December 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jazz7

    Well my son called a couple of days ago and told me where he will be stationed for the next 3 years, Hawaii ! 🙂 Just hoping that will be the case for his whole term. Although it's the Navy; anything can happen as we have heard other Ships being attacked over the years.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. VRage13

    If you truly want to thank the military, put pen to paper, write a lengthy letter to your congressman, senator and BO telling them that military retirement package is NOT a social enetilement program. That retirement package is something that the military members have earned fighting for the protection and benefit of the 99% of Americans who never pick up a gun or put on the uniform. We,the men and women who have served in the US Military, are the true 1%ers!

    December 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isabel

      The true killers of innocent people.

      December 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. randy smith

    " virtually all " ... "As of last week, more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed in Iraq"... "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." ...
    If this was Bush, CNN would be proclaiming "Bush refuses to bring all troops home, and is leaving LARGE contingent of "Blackwater-type" private security personnel in Iraq."

    December 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Trigster

    Welcome home, our brave men and women! We need you here, and I'm afraid you're coming home to a bit of a hornets' nest. Help us to work and ensure that the criminals who sent you overseas to begin with are held accountable and this never happens again.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Dear Ty:
    Welcome home.
    I am sorry it took twenty years to hear it.
    On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for everything you have sacrificed for our country.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lucerot

    Welcome home US Troops!!! Thank you! Now take a load off!

    December 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    @Jazz7:
    Hawaii! Cool.
    Hopefully you can visit.
    I know I'd want to!

    December 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jazz7

    Oh I will be, next year tho. Thanks Donna

    December 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ken Knight

    A song I wrote for our soldiers, "I'll Be Coming Home," sung by Alan Stafford, can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/kenknightphoto.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NoTags

    Bring home the troops from Afghanistan NOW.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
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