From left, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the last commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, salute as the national plays during a ceremony to retire colors from the U.S. Iraq mission on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2011. DOD photo by D. Myles Culle
12/20/2011 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., Dec. 20, 2011 – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, welcomed the final group of U.S. troops home from Iraq here today.
As the senior leaders looked on, Carter lauded Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the last commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, and his troops for their performance of duty.
“Today is a historic day as we commemorate the return of the colors under which our armed forces fought so ably and proudly in Iraq and mark the end of the second longest war in U.S. history,” Carter said.
“Those of you who have arrived this morning bearing the flag of U.S. Forces Iraq represent all those who have served -- active duty, reserve, National Guard and civilians.”
Carter said the returning troops’ performance and sacrifices have earned them their nation’s gratitude.
“We, who greet you here at [Joint Base] Andrews, represent a grateful nation,” he said. “We welcome you. We’re proud of you. We’re in your debt. As the president has so eloquently said, ‘Your service belongs to the ages.’”
The deputy defense secretary acknowledged the thousands of service members who died or were wounded while serving in Iraq.
“To the families of the 4,500 troops who made the ultimate sacrifice, to the more than 30,000 troops that bear the wounds of this war and to their families, we lack the words to say what you feel on this day,” Carter said.
“Because try as we may, we can never fully know it,” he continued. “But we do know what your sacrifice means to us, to this nation, and to a world that still depends so much on America for its security.” read more>>>