Holiday Homecoming

U.S. troops in Iraq are returning home in time for the holidays

December 09, 2011

Keither Singleton Jr., 3, holds up a sign as he waits with his family for his father, U.S. Army Private First Class Keither Singleton Sr., during a welcome ceremony on base for soldiers returning home from Iraq.

On December 6, about 170 U.S. soldiers returned home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington on the last charter flight to return to the base from Iraq. The troops were greeted and celebrated by family and friends during a welcome ceremony at the base. Over the next several days, the last few thousands of  U.S. troops in Iraq will also return home. By December 31, the U.S. will have formally withdrawn the last of its remaining troops in Iraq. Click here to watch a slide show of the troops returning home.

A Long War

It has been nearly nine years since the start of the war in Iraq on March 2003. The U.S. invaded Iraq to find and destroy dangerous weapons and remove from power the country's leader, Saddam Hussein. Weapons were never found, but Hussein was caught and tried for crimes against his people. Iraqis later voted in free elections, the first in 50 years. But religious and ethnic divisions began to tear the country apart. In most parts of Iraq the conflict has quieted down, but bursts of violence still shatter the peace.

America's combat mission in Iraq came to a formal end last year. At that time, tens of thousands of U.S. combat forces left the country. Nearly 40,000 troops stayed behind, however, to advise and assist Iraqi security forces.

On October 21, President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. forces would be leaving Iraq by the end of December. This will meet the terms of a security pact the U.S. and Iraq signed in 2008. "Our troops will definitely be home for the holidays," Obama said. He praised the efforts of the American troops who have served in Iraq. "They will cross the border with their heads held high, proud of their success," he said.

To see more pictures from the troop's homecoming, click here.

The U.S. Armed Forces are TFK 2011 Person of the Year nominees. Read more about them and other candidates at

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