Last week, the United States marked the end of a foreign conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 American troops and 100,000 Iraqis, wounded thousands more and cost the nation more than $800 billion. The war in Iraq lasted nearly nine bitterly conflicted years, but the flag-retiring ceremony that brought the battle to a close lasted only 45 minutes.
Some people — both Americans and Iraqis — are celebrating the exit of our soldiers from the Middle Eastern country, while others think the withdrawal is premature. One thing is certain, though — those who support and welcome the end of the war and those who are uneasy about it must agree that the United States military did a sound job of carrying out its mission under very trying circumstances.
Thousands of soldiers and their families made countless sacrifices to help ensure the conflict resulted in an independent, free and sovereign Iraq. Many soldiers — including 439 from the 3rd Infantry Division — lost their lives. Their selfless service forever is memorialized by the eastern redbud trees that adorn Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk, reminding visitors who pass by to honor those who gave all.
Soon, the remainder of U.S. troops in Iraq will make their way home. The final few thousand soldiers will head out on scheduled flights; many will arrive in time to celebrate the Christmas holiday with their families. And while the entire country will welcome back our heroes with open arms, the Bryan County/Fort Stewart community should be exceptionally eager to celebrate their return.
The 3rd ID has one of the most successful combat records of any U.S. Army division, and many Marne soldiers have served multiple tours in Iraq. The brigades work hard and put their rigorous training to good use. All feelings about the war aside, let’s greet our soldiers happily and welcome them home.