Long-Awaited Homecoming: Troops With Last Combat Brigade in Iraq Return

Last combat brigade home from Iraq, part of plan to end combat operations.

Aug. 19, 2010 — -- For the last combat brigade in Iraq, the end of a long, deadly war was filled with cheers and hugs and kisses from those in Fort Lewis, Wash., who eagerly awaited their return to the States.

"How happy are you?" a soldier asked his young daughter, to which she replied, "Really, really, really happy," as they embraced.

For most of these families, the war in Iraq felt like a lifetime. In some cases, it really was. It was a lifetime measured in children who weren't even born when their parents went off to war.

"A lot of things have changed. My son got bigger," said AJ McKinney, who heads to Hawaii in December for his new duty station. "[It] feels good though -- good to be back home."

It has been seven grueling years of war, with thousands of troops called to serve three, even four times.

This particular unit, members of the 4th Stryker Brigade, responded to the call of duty during the surge of January 2007 and faced some of the heaviest fighting of the war. Despite hopes of returning, their deployment soon was extended. Now, they are back home in the arms of those they love at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle.

"[There are] not enough words to express the feeling I have right now to be home," said Chaplain Folaugh Tupuola. "I thank God each day, and I prayed that we all get back home safe. It's just an overwhelming feeling."

But as they arrived, a nearby location stood as a testament to what they had each been through -- the 4th Brigade's memorial to the 38 soldiers who never made it home.

'This Is America'

Angie Sumrall flew up from Mississippi to welcome her son home. Although she admitted it was hard to send one of her own off to war, Sumrall said that she has no regrets and would go through it all again.

"Absolutely, this is America. You have to fight for your freedom," Sumrall said. "You cannot accept the attacks that they put on our country and I think we had to go there. If not, they would continue to come here."

That's why Lt. Wayne Grimes said he believes spending so many years in Iraq was worth the effort.

"I think the Iraqi people are better off, in the long run," Grimes said. "Yeah, it's good -- one of those things to look back and say, 'Hey I was a part of that.'"

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