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. saywhat

    I am proud of our troops , I salute & welcome them home. Hope that those serving in Afghanistan return soon too.
    My thoughts are with the families of those who laid down their lives serving their country.

    Those ignorant thugs at the helm who sacrificed our young for their self serving agenda and squandered national treasure, go about smirking.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. adam

    Grats to the families of the troops and to the soldiers themselves. Enjoy your time back home.

    For those that are suggesting this is some sort of campaign promise fulfilled, please just let that go already. Our President would still have had troops in Iraq had the Iraq government not withdrawn immunity of US troops from crimes in the country. He didn't pull them out to keep a promise, he pulled them out because he had no other option.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ChrkeePrde

    Pity I can see Iran invading Iraq after all our troops are out. Too many lives lost in Iraq. Thank you troops for your service, we owe you our lives. Welcome home and Merry Christmas!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • KentAZ

      A more likely scenario is that Iran is the next U.S. target and that many of these troops will be re-deployed in an upcoming conflict with that country. Iran has OUR oil and we want it now. Iran's nuclear program = Iraq's (non-existent) WMDs. Yet another in a long list of casus bellis.

      December 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff1951

    Thank you soldiers so very much! sadly, you are returning to a counry that has lost its way. Please disregard unwarranted remarks by those who's battles are not with you.
    While I did not suport the reasons you were sent to war I still respect your honot in serving this country that has been so good tto us. Please join the effort to restore its once great standing in the world.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. VRage13

    For the freedoms you enjoy, on behave of the military let me say, You are welcome.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chen

    Don't bother unpacking, you're going to Iran.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • KentAZ

      Unfortunately, you're probably correct.

      December 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      Only if a Republican is elected. Obama will not send them but it just depends on how many Americans love warmongers.

      December 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mona

    Thank god these guys are coming home, however these people need to work and their is no jobs out there all all.
    So sad....

    December 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LarryDavidSandwich

    Our sons and daughters are coming home just in time for liberals to spit on them!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • bear0402

      Last time I checked, it was a conservative that sent them over there to get shot at to begin with.

      December 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      The Republicans did more than Spit on them when they sent them into this senseless war to begin with.

      December 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    @LarryDavidSandwich:
    That is an unfair, untrue statement tailor-made to try to inflame an argument between the parties.
    War knows no party affiliation, and neither do our troops; they know duty, and we thank them.
    Please, if you do nothing else, just thank a vet today, and stop with the snarky comments.
    They benefit no one.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jesus cristo

    Now lets send the bill to halliburton and all the private contractors that have made money on this war. The big question is when the hell are we getting out of Afghanistan!!!!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jesus cristo

    After WW2 all Americans frowned on war profiteering. Now the Repukkkes think is good for business... Republicans are enemies to America and Americans...

    December 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. clwyd

    Yes, welcome home! You never should have been sent by bush based on his lies about WMD!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tetsuyoshi

      I don't see the Democrats as whining so much as still tinyrg to treat the republicans across the aisle with respect as rational, reasonable, logical beings. Clearly this isn't getting the country anywhere. The republicans are still slavishly loyal to their party not the welfare of the nation. Time to wake up and deal with irrational people the only way they should. Ignore them and stop them from getting in the way of stopping this war. Prevent them from bringing their bills and amendments to the floor. Control the agenda. This includes the deluded DLC Democrats who vote with the delusional republicans. They need to hold their members on these key votes to end the war and stop Cheney and Bush. What on earth anyone in Congress thinks they are gaining but supporting Bush is beyond stupid. Shove the polls up their noses and get them a clue. Reid and Pelosi need to have a back to God talk with these dumber than dirt Democrats. And for the the love of God, stop coddling Lieberman. Hang him out to dry.There is no middle point on ending the war. A compromise won't do anything except endanger troops. It is an all or nothing proposition. You can't reduce the number of troops because that will increase the danger to the remaining. We need to totally pull out and have UN peacekeeping troops move in. International diplomacy with UN support must help Iraq restore a functioning government. The Bush administration is incapable of doing anything constructive. They have decimated our military. They are planning to attack Iran (I can't fathom with what and who) . Congress has to stop them.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • uymoueuefws

      AB7Kij xcesadejencn

      March 15, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. ipmutt

    Why nothing on Obama's spy plane kaper? why has no one tied Obama to this. These planes are not flying over Iran without his approval. This is not much different then when we attacked and Killed 39 civilians in Afganistan. That kind of attack does not happen without his approval. Now he gave away a top secrete plane. Time to hold him accountable.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)

      @ipmutt

      Because this a story of troops coming home.
      Show some respect on this one, and I promise we'll let you attack President Obama on another blog.

      December 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wildone

    Welcome Home, all you brave Americans! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU A THOUSAND, THOUSAND TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      And may a grateful nation and God bless you with happiness and success in whatever you endeavor. You are the true hero's of freedom through the globe.

      December 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. saywhat

    @ KentAZ

    well said.

    @chrk prede
    I wouldn't be surprised if Iran invades iraq. After all it was Saddam who ably assisted by us attacked Iran, killed thousands and even used chemical weapons generously gifted to them by us of course against substantial cash.

    But don't worry Iran would not invade Iraq. We have given them enough opportunities by our follies to increase their influence & presence in that region.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
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