News Update :

Last U.S. troops Iraq home by Christmas

Friday, December 30, 2011

U.S.: the case of cotton specialist Chancy, who was among the first U.S. troops to invade Iraq in 2003 and the last to leave last weekend, four tours and nine years of struggle were more than enough.

The 31-year-old was one of about 200 soldiers of the first Cavalry Division was given a raucous standing ovation Saturday at his base in Texas, where he arrived home in time for Christmas Eve to remember .

"I'm glad it's over with, the fact that everyone can come home and I hope everyone did not sacrifice in vain, because people could not come home," he said.

Standing in the turret, which raised his hands in jubilation last weekend as his armored column rolled into Kuwait at the first light, ending a conflict that sparked a fierce insurgency in Iraq and deeply divided Americans. On Saturday he and his comrades marched through freezing rain on the parade field here as family and friends cheered and waved American flags.

After a brief ceremony in which the colors of the unit was deployed after the long flight, Col. Phil Battaglia issued a single order: "Charge" Moments later, cotton wrapped his arms around his wife Tia and his eight-year-old son Tyler.

Also attending the ceremony were Virginia Solis and his four children, who welcomed home Specialist Ismael Solis, 32, a veteran of three Iraq tours.

"It's hard for me," he said. "It had to be mother and father at the same time." The celebration was tempered by the knowledge that while the U.S. is definitely out of Iraq, which is still at war in Afghanistan. The wives of some of the returning soldiers, he said they were preparing for another tour. "They said they will implement in 2013, which is just another step that we take when we get there," said Tricia Joseph, who is 19 years and four months pregnant.

"Either way, I'll be standing by your side at all." The joy is also overshadowed by the knowledge that many soldiers never returned. U.S. lost 4484 soldiers in Iraq, while 32,000 people were injured, according to Iraq Coalition casualties.

The first cavalry division, which rotates through Iraq three times and smaller units sent in the past, lost 283 soldiers there, a spokesman said.

"It's scary not knowing if our loved ones come home, especially when he is the father of her children," said Amanda Tougas, mother of two children.

Some soldiers expressed concern about whether Iraq will be able to defend his absence. Cotton fears that a series of bombings in Baghdad earlier this week could be a sign of things to come.

"I was expecting something to happen, but I hope it stable in the light of all the sacrifices we made, and I hope will be resolved," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been criticized by some Republicans for failing to convince Iraq to extend a 2008 State of Forces Agreement in order to keep some U.S. troops in the country. However, many veterans, said he thought the U.S. had done as much as I could.

The 2003 invasion toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, who was tried and executed in 2006, and a "surge" of 20,000 U.S. troops in 2007 helped stem a wave of sectarian bloodshed brink of civil war.

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