COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– Friday afternoon, 40 members of the 4th infantry division returned home after a year-long deployment in Iraq for a welcome home ceremony.
They hugged and kissed loved ones they hadn’t seen in more than a year. One soldier even met his daughter for the first time since she was born while he was in Iraq.
“I’m so excited, I have butterflies in my stomach,” said the woman waiting for her husband to meet their infant daughter for the first time.
The troops were stationed in the northern part of Iraq where they actually trained and advised Iraqi security forces. For many, this was their fourth and final mission to Iraq.
They didn’t find out about President Obama’s confirmation that all American troops will be pulled out of Iraq by year’s end until they arrived at the Army base. Soldiers said there will be some bumps and hiccups along the way, but Iraq is ready to stand on its own.
“I think it is a very good time for them. Their security forces have dramatically improved over the past year. Psychologically they have been moving this way and we have been moving this way in a very deliberate manner. We have started closing our bases down and drawing down our forces months ago, so this was not an evacuation, this was a very deliberate transition,” said 4th Infantry Division Maj. General David Perkins.
Just one company from Fort Carson remains in Iraq among the 40,000+ troops still there.
The soldiers said they are proud of their work and hope the gains made will not be lost once the troops leave.
“They have to do it on their own without the training wheels,” said one soldier.
“It’s there country to make or break at this point,” said another.
Fort Carson Army Post in El Paso County has lost 258 soldiers in Iraq since the war began.
“They realize freedom, things like that, are things that they had never known but now they know why they have yearned for them and they are taking our example,” said Perkins.