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. Tony

    WELCOME HOME OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS. IT IS GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK.

    December 11, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. James

    WELCOME HOME, THANK GOD BUSH IS GONE AD OBAMA HAS THE SENSE TO BRING YOU HOME

    December 11, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl

      And send plenty to Afganistan in January and February.

      December 11, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. unowhoitsme

    We're coming up on an election year...the reason the troops came home. This war was a total waste of human life.

    December 11, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. jemzinthekop

    Welcome home troops, except for the gay ones.

    Sincerely,

    Rick Perry

    December 11, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaitlyn

      How can you make such a comment? The "gay ones" are our heroes, too! They also protect YOUR right to make such comments!!! So go ahed and wave your American flag upon the homecoming of all of OUR HEROES! God bless them and God bless America and thank you to each and everyone of you!

      December 11, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      Kaitlyn,
      Jemzinthekop is making a joke about Rick Perry who recently denounced gays in the military. IT WAS A JOKE.

      December 11, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • jemzinthekop

      Thank you Jade. Yes, this was meant to be a satirical jab.

      December 11, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • jemzinthekop

      And thank you Kaitlyn... I agree 100%

      December 11, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jake

    Yes lets bring ALL our troops home and close the borders to America. If you don't have an invitation to come into the USA then you wait until you do. With our military forces working the border and INS we should be able to avoid illegal entry. If the Federal Government would just enforce our laws there would be no problem. We have too many people here and we have no idea who they are. Americans stand up welcome our troops homeand thank them for their service then request that they work to enforce our borders.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Andra

    Welcome Home!!! 🙂

    December 11, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dott

    I just hope that we never ever do this type of thing again. Make war against a nation that was not a threat to us. Sure Hussein was an evil dictator but was the lives of our precious troops worth it? NO We need to keep our nose out of other countries business and take care of things in the USA. Clean out our nation of free loaders that are here illegally and most likely a threat to us.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. rumsfeld009

    WATED WAR WATED LIVES WATED TREASURE

    THANKS FOR NOTHING GEORGE WARMONGER BUSH

    December 11, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. dondijon

    I suppose You Have A PHD... Our Troops are the most highly traned military in the History of the World, most MOS's require a higher mentality than The typical armchair troll would comprehend. Most VETS are hard workers as it is diciplined into them if they are not already predisposed to it. Also, Keep in Mind that if You merely look, and not even that hard, You'll find that if You voice this same opinion to anyone with eve 1/1000 of a brain they will most likely ignor Your ignorence...

    From a 10 Year Army Veteran who Wrote That Check, and Damn near had it CASHED!!!

    December 11, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. MilitaryMom

    Yes, this is a great thing for our troops! Unfortunately, what people don't realize is that there will be many diverted to other places within the AOR and won't be able to spend the holidays with their families.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Welcome Home Homeys

    Welcome back troops .... The republicans are happy for you service and will soon be sending you over to Iran to fight. The trillions spent on this war has bankrupted the economy for the non wealthy. We hope to get the war going again soon if we can get Obama out of office. Thanks for your support...

    December 11, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. dondijon

    I firmly believe that TWO YEARS of Military FRONT LINE SERVICE should be made a mandatory requirement for any Holding the Office of POTUS Starting NOW!!!

    December 11, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. dusty fisher

    I am one of those who greet troops in Bangor Maine. I get a chance to thank them and want to take this time to thank the families. You folks deserve same respect we show your son and daughters, husbands and wifes and significant others who go off in harms way.
    Have a great holiday season, Christmans and New Years. Keep in mind that although most arre now out of Iraq there are still many away in other far away places who will not be with families. I have met most of them who have passed through Bangor and have been very impressed with all.
    Dusty Fisher
    Troop Greeter

    December 11, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. dondijon

    I likewise feel it should also be the rule for all holding public office above the local level

    December 11, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. pat carr

    Thankfully this utter farce and horrendous waste of lives, money and resources is over. Thanks Obama for ending Bush's horrible phony war, but why did it take so long? Welcome home troops and hopefully you won't be sent into any more chickenhawk wars soon.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaelfury

      http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/a-naming-of-parts/

      December 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
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