Iraq troop withdrawal complete, Service members home for the holidays

Making good on the announcement made by President Obama on October 21 that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the year, the final convoy of 500 American Service members and 110 vehicles crossed the border into Kuwait early on Sunday morning.

The final convoy of American Service members crossed the border into Kuwait on Sunday morning, ending the nine-year conflict in Iraq.

Making the announcement of the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq, President Obama said that U.S. troops should leave the country with “their heads held high, proud of their success.”

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also praised combat operations in Iraq. Over the weekend, after participating in ceremonies in Baghdad marking the end of the conflict in Iraq, Secretary Panetta told a reporter in Turkey, “There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war. But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain. As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”

Panetta then expressed hope that the people of Iraq will be able to “enjoy the freedoms and liberties and opportunities that all people ought to be able to enjoy.”

Over nine years of conflict, more than 1 million American Service members served in Iraq. Of that number 32,000 came home wounded and close to 4,500 were killed.

Response to the announcement of the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq was mixed, but Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton welcomed the news. Lance Corporal Angelo Padina remarked that it was a long, hard-fought war and that U.S. troops have every reason to be proud of what they accomplished.

Though an agreement with the Iraqi government required that U.S. troops withdraw by the end of the year, President Obama promised those Service members they would be home in time for the holidays. And on Sunday morning that promise became a reality.

Along with a grateful nation, we express our thanks and appreciation to those men and women who served our country so valiantly in Iraq over the past nine years. We wish them and military members and families everywhere a safe and happy holiday season.