Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (AP) -- The top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq is back on U.S. soil -- welcomed home by his wife and his president.
Today's understated ceremony at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington marked the end of the nine-year conflict in Iraq.
President Barack Obama met Gen. Lloyd Austin and his top command staff with a smart salute, as Austin returned with the U.S. Forces-Iraq flag to bring a symbolic conclusion to the war.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both greeted the troops and their families. The families had to await the ritual return of the flag before embracing their loved ones.
The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on Sunday. In a visible reminder of the conflict, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wore a combat uniform, as did Gen. Austin and the troops who accompanied him.
Obama, an early opponent of the war, made no formal remarks. But with the president sitting nearby, Austin said, "What our troops achieved in Iraq over the course of nine years is truly remarkable." He said, "They removed a brutal dictator and gave the Iraqi people their freedom."
(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press)