[A-List] Final U.S. combat brigade departs Iraq
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Thu Aug 19 13:58:01 MDT 2010
Final U.S. combat brigade departs Iraq
Rebecca Santana / Associated Press
Khabari Crossing, Kuwait -- As their convoy reached the barbed wire at
the border crossing out of Iraq on Wednesday, the soldiers whooped and
Then they scrambled out of their stifling hot armored vehicles,
unfurled an American flag and posed for group photos.
For these troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it
was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism. Seven years and five
months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade
was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama's Aug. 31
deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.
When 18-year-old Spc. Luke Dill rolled into Iraq as part of the U.S.
invasion, his Humvee was so vulnerable to bombs that the troops lined
its floor with flak jackets.
Now 25 and a staff sergeant after two tours of duty, he rode out of
Iraq this week in a Stryker, an eight-wheeled behemoth encrusted with
armor and add-ons to ward off grenades and other projectiles.
"It's something I'm going to be proud of for the rest of my life --
the fact that I came in on the initial push and now I'm leaving with
the last of the combat units," he said.
Waiting for him back in Olympia, Wash., is the "Big Boy"
Harley-Davidson he purchased from one of the motorcycle company's
dealerships at U.S. bases in Iraq -- a vivid illustration of how
embedded the American presence has become since the invasion of March
That presence is far from over. Scatterings of combat troops still
await departure, and some 50,000 will stay another year in what is
designated as a noncombat role. They will carry weapons to defend
themselves and accompany Iraqi troops on missions (but only if asked).
Special forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists.
So the U.S. death toll -- at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of
Wednesday -- may not yet be final.
The Stryker brigade, based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington
state and named for the vehicle that delivers troops into and out of
battle, has lost 34 troops in Iraq.
Before the Aug. 31 deadline, about half the brigade's 4,000 soldiers
flew out like most of the others leaving Iraq, but its leadership
volunteered to have the remainder depart over land.
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