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. bobcat (in a hat)

    @Isabel
    If you are so totally down on America, you know where the door is. And don't let it hit you where the good lord split you.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bayousara

      Hey, bobcat, ease up there! We are all allowed our opinions without you getting personal. I don't admire the "Love it or Leave It" mentality. I can only think you are a lover of war....

      December 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      No you leave. Last time i checked we had a bill of rights that allowed freedom of speech. It is you that hates america

      December 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bayousara

    He said, "Hopefully we won't have to do it again.' We never had to "do it" in the first place. It was one man's huge narcissistic ego that got us there in the first place–GWB. He should be hung for betraying his country and killing thousands of young Americans.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thanks George Bush JR

    Thanks George JR. You have cost the US trillions of dollars and made Haliburton Owner Dick Chaney millions. The lives of the people were nothing to you as a republican. We can only hope a new republican can get elected next year and start a new war for the republican pshyce and possibly for oil somewhere. The republican party of wealth will make money for the millionaires and of course never send their children to the war.

    Be sure to Vote Obama out to seperate the classes and make the wealthy more wealthy. Long Live the Next Republican King!

    December 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kelley Smythe

    While we are thrilled that so many of our men and women in uniform are coming home for the holidays- it's very important to know that many are still being deployed! Don't forget to pray for them! The truth is not always what it may seem....

    December 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Than you Kelley, people are very quick to forget that.
      Until they all come home.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isabel

      Pray for their safety while they blow away other people?
      Jesus was not a warmonger.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eddie G

    You've done a first class job, people. We are lucky to have you. Sorry the place is worse than you left it. Hope you can find jobs.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • DDM

      Find jobs? They need to continue as soldiers and busy defending our porous borders, and defending our interiors from all the jihadists we continue to immigrate into this country!

      December 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Snsnx

    You would if you had someone you loved serving there and did not know whether they are returning in the same condition they left... so please be a little more sensitive and respectful. If you don't care about this sort of news, then don't read it or waste your "precious time" making isiotic comments.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DDM

    What do you mean by 'unemployable' ? Line our borders with these returning soldiers, put them to work guarding our transportation, cities, waterfronts, etc. from terrorists that have immigrated (legally or illegally) into our country, and let these soldiers spend their pay here in our economy instead of abroad.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Karl Hungus

    Nice work vets! Take a long deserved break and rest up because next deployments will be in Asia-Pacific to deter China from carrying out any bold ideas.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jacob A

    All,

    Thanks God Our Troops Ar coming back home. We need all of us to be proud of them. We have to support them in every way, financial , employment etc.. helping them build a new life. Please Be respectful for those who are fighting for our freedom and our Country. God Bless America and his people

    December 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Beans

    Isobel:
    The American PEOPLE are not responisible; it's the American POLITI TIANS.
    Blaming the average joe schmoe is exactly why I called you a troll...and meant it. I can handle the truth; you, like most people, just don't know how to tell it.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Wyominguy

    Well Done Troops...as a 60's era vet Im Proud of your service and Know your welcome HOME!

    December 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • HereWeGo

      YOU actually had something to fight for. Now we fight wars for the rich elite.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HereWeGo

    Good luck finding a job. I hope your patriotism was worth it...

    December 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AmericanSam

    Welcome home, soldiers, and a Merry Christmas to ya!

    December 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. AmericanSam

    I think the purpose was greater than killing arabs, friend.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dandy

    The end of a very tragic mistake is at last finally coming to an end. We spent way too much money and lives chasing a president's dream that would not be. The Iraqi's were never a threat to the US – yet we spent trillions of dollars there and killed an uncountable number of people. History will not be kind to us.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
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