Return of colors ceremony closes out Iraq war
Published: December 20, 2011
WASHINGTON – In the final operation of the Iraq war, U.S. Forces-Iraq commander Gen. Lloyd Austin returned the command’s flag to U.S. soil Tuesday in a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
“We have honored our commitment and our military-led mission has come to a successful conclusion, and today I am proud to safely return our colors to their rightful place, the United States of America,” Austin told an audience that included President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as returning troops and their families.
The previous months saw the United States smoothly move 50,000 troops and 2 million pieces of equipment out of Iraq as the Dec. 31 deadline to end the war loomed, Austin said.
“On Sunday, the last of our troops crossed the border from Iraq to Kuwait with their equipment, thereby completing one of the most extraordinary feats in our military’s history,” he said. “And they did it in an orderly fashion and they did it ahead of schedule.”
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the ouster of Saddam Hussein and subsequent efforts to shore up the country gave the Iraqi people a chance at living normal, peaceful lives.
“They now have a choice in their future and an unprecedented opportunity to live in peace and prosperity inside Iraq, within the region, for their children,” he said.
But those efforts claimed nearly 4,500 American lives and resulted in tens of thousands of wounded. Dempsey recalled a soldier he had commanded, Pfc. Stuart Moore, who managed to rig up an electrical system at a water treatment plant despite the fact that he wasn’t an electrician. Moore was killed in 2003, leaving behind a small daughter.
“Now she may not remember her father, but we will,” Dempsey said. “We will remember for her. We will make sure she knows what he did and why he did it.”