On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush declared that the United States and its “Coalition of the Willing” began major combat operations in Iraq.
On May 1, 2003, President Bush, dressed in a flightsuit after dramatically landing a combat aircraft on a carrier held off the coast of California for the President’s “Top Gun” fantasy press event, declares that “major combat operations” in Iraq were over.
2,666 days later, on August 18, 2010, weeks ahead of schedule, President Barack Obama actually ends U.S. combat operations in Iraq as the last of the combat troops and equipment complete their withdrawal from the country.
The long convoy began moving over the weekend, and as the first soldiers reached Kuwait earlier this week, they grinned broadly, whooped and exchanged high-fives.
“We won! We won! It’s over! We brought democracy to Iraq!” a soldier shouted as fellow soldiers celebrated their arrival in Kuwait this week.
For Staff Sgt. Heon Hong of Guam, the brigade’s departure marked the end of his third tour of duty in Iraq.
“I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad we’re done with Iraq,” Hong said as his transport arrived this week. Hopefully, I never come back to Iraq.”
Another soldier, Sgt. Devon Scarey of Deltona, Fla., said simply, “It feels awesome.”
Brig. Gen. Nick Tooliatos, deputy commanding general for First Theater Sustainment Command in Kuwait, stood at the border saluting each soldier as he or she crossed.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better honor than to greet some soldiers who have done great work for a year fighting our nation’s war, and to just be here and render honors to them and welcome them and thank them for a job well done,” Tooliatos said.
“It’s a historic event,” he said. “In 2003, we rolled across this berm into Iraq, and now as we get ready to transition the security of Iraq to Iraq’s own forces, this is a significant retrograde of a combat unit.”
Thank you for your service. Godspeed on your way home.
(And thank you, President Obama, for this and for skipping the flight suit.)