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, 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, 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. michaelfury

    December 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Veteran

    dondijon = how correct you are.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. michaelfury

    December 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mountain Man

    Say something Michael Fury.

    December 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jacob

    What's the big deal? I'm in the Air Force. Coming home from Iraq only means that you'll go to Afghanistan instead next time.

    December 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      Or you will go into Iran if the Republicans get into office. They don't seem to have any shame when it comes to making money for their big buddies.

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

    Thinking about voting for Newt or any other Republican – just don't – or we will have jobs for these troops and that will not be in their country. That will be fighting another war in Iran. Republican president wanted to get Hussein for trying to kill his daddy. He got him and left this nation in a drastic situation. How can anyone still be a Republican after that?

    December 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Change

    "Waiting for the love of a traveling soldier." The Dixie Chicks!!! Welcome home US soldiers! We are greatful for your service and sacrifice is helping to serve our nation. I would personally like to dedicate the song "Traveling Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks to all our brave men and women who served so bravely and with great honor in Iraq and Afghanistan too. Our thoughs and prayers are with you all.

    I will also like to dedicate "Traveling Soldier" to three lovely women from Texas. That's the Dixie Chicks who made this great song a reality. I listen to the song everyday and sometimes cry simply because when these three lovely women spoke out against this illegitimate Iraqi war in 2003, the music industry pulled their records from the stores nationwide and fans went on a public display, burning their material in public. But nine years later, who was wrong and who was right about the Iraqi war all along? Of course the Dixie Chicks were right along with millions of Americans and others worldwide who protested this war and said give peace a chance.

    So to our brave women and men in uniform who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and in all four branches of government including the US Cost Guard and to the Dixie Chicks...I love you all and God bless each and everyone of you. And again, here's" A Traveling Soldier" to you all!

    December 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ChrkeePrde

    Watch Iran invade Iraq this January.... pity.

    December 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mario

    Let us not forget the most important lesson off all, NEVER again allow a foriegn country, our good ole buddy Israel, to trick us into anymore mideast wars, scarificing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars under a phony WMD premise.

    December 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mario

    Let us not forget the most important lesson of all, NEVER again allow a foreign country, our good ole buddy Israel, to trick us into anymore mid east wars costing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars with a fake WMD claim.

    December 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RainnMakerr

    I wonder which country is next.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      you can suck my left nut!

      December 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. solja

    so when am i coming home....there is no reason soldiers should be sitting in kuwait doing nothing....

    December 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. solja

    why do we have soldiers sitting in kuwait??????

    December 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Miro

    This is so amazing..I hope one day we can all witness African Countries and its people come into perpetual Peace..Let's all believe in it.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. islam

    its good to listen to openions from ordinary people of america... not from leaders who send these inocent solders to wars they donot know why they are fighting........
    ordinary american people duty is to keep their soilders at home ...their are no terorist no wepon of mass nuclear boom for america....donot create hate for your self among other nations in world.....bring change through votes and for ordinary americans...hope u would like to listen this from other people of other nations...

    December 13, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
    • mullah dadulah

      america makes wars,because that is how america makes money.the first thing american soldiers did in iraq was to ship all iraqi gold to america.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
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