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. wildone

    When the wars are all over and the soldiers come home, let us not forget their sacrifice and welcome them with open arms.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kelso

    ipmutt: sure, as soon as Bush-Cheney is held responsivle for THEIR was crimes.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      That is W A R crimes. I hope I live to see the day but won't hold my breath. Evil creeps

      December 11, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Easy E

    Welcome home soldiers. Hopefully as a nation we learn to honor your sacrifices by never involving ourselves again in any more wars of choice, especially for the sake of Stone Age ingrates that hate us.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bobcat (in a hat)

    @Easy E
    That is a very good wish. Sadly, it's not going to happen. We have involved ourselves in wars of choice since the 1950's. This type of thinking is not going to end anytime soon.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JP

    I revere and hold in awe the brave men and women who served in this war.

    I will forever feel nothing but contempt and revulsion for the lowlife, worthless politicians who sent them to it – may they all burn in hell for their actions!

    December 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Willie Bee

    Shame on you... 'yotch!

    December 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bobcat (in a hat)

    @sammars
    So you really think this a reelection ploy ? You don't keep up with news too much, do you.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ImARepublican

    Welcome home heroes...
    Sorry, there are no jobs...

    go back in the military because the government is the only place hiring.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Where's the proof they're actually *back*? Are you kidding me? Turn on the telly to something other than 'Beavis and Butthead' and you might see!

    December 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mindstorms

    The real shame is the war in Iraq was never necessary. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 nor did they have weapons of mass destruction. Yes, their leader was a horrible human being but you can say that about many countries in the world.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isabel

      Exactly

      December 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    Please, all Americans! Wall street protesters, top 1%, middle class, Republicans and Democrats, Let us alll pitch in and bring all these fine service members to New York for the Ticker Tape Parede we gave the WW2 vets. Pay for thier transport if you can. Please give them the same Honor and respect that we have given to our past hero's.
    Please help us to honor them with the respect and honor they desereve...

    December 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isabel

      They deserve? For what?
      Killing innocent people in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11?

      December 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      they did what they were asked to do! They defeated a dictator. War is tough and has its casualties. do you favor Sadam?

      December 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Isabel

    The American people are to blame for the deaths and injuries of our soldiers and
    Iraqi's soldiers. If the American people weren't so gung ho about war this war would have never happened.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      So you support Sadams use of chemical weapons against his fellow arabs? Idiot!!!!

      December 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lardeau

    O K .. all very nice and all that good stuff .. but .. America is a war-mongering nation now. What will all these unemployed troops do now ?? America needs these conflicts in order to create employment and all those jobs that go with it to make guns, ammo, ships, and planes.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      So i guess you would rether have Sadam using chemical wepons on his people??? Sound rather evil to me.

      December 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Beans

    Isabel is a troll. Please ignore it.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isabel

      I'm not a troll, you like most people can't handle the truth.
      What did Iraq have to do with 9/11? Some estimate that 1million Iraqi's
      died in the Iraq war. What if it were 1 million Americans?
      The United States is the most hypocritical nation on earth.
      They've killed more people than the whole world combined.
      God Bless America and Support Those Troops! WAKE UP!!!!!!

      December 10, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. it was all about a dictator supporting terroist and using weapon of mass destruction on his own people. It is called bravery on the part of the USA to stand up and fight against terror. Do you prefer terrorism?

      December 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. F1

    Thank you troops we all appreciate your sacrifice to all of the world much,much thanks, make a practice everybody to thank our women and men for what they have done for us!!

    December 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
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