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The World

December 19, 2011

Last troops exit Iraq in subdued end to 9-year war

(Continued)

About 110 vehicles made the last trip from Camp Adder to the "berm" in Kuwait, the long mound of earth over which tens of thousands of American troops charged into Iraq at the start of the war.

The roughly five-hour drive was uneventful, with the exception of a few vehicle malfunctions.

Once they crossed into Kuwait, there was time for a brief celebrations as the soldiers piled out of the cramped and formidable-looking MRAPs. A bear hug, some whooping, fist bumps and fist pumps.

The war that began eight years and nine months earlier cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The bitterly divisive conflict left Iraq shattered and struggling to recover. For the United States, two central questions remain unanswered: whether it was all worth it, and whether the new government the Americans leave behind will remain a steadfast U.S. ally or drift into Iran's orbit.

But the last soldiers out were looking ahead, mostly, and not back. They spoke eagerly of awaiting family reunions — some of them in time for Christmas — and longing for Western "civilization" and especially the meals that await them back home.

The 29-year-old Vorhees was planning a Mexican dinner out at Rosa's in Killeen, Texas. Her favorite is crispy chicken tacos. Another joy of home, she said: You don't have to bring your weapon when you go to the bathroom.

Spc. Jesse Jones was getting ready to make the 2 1/2 hour drive from Ft. Hood, Texas, where the brigade is based, to Dallas. His quarry: an In & Out Burger.

"It's just an honor to be able to serve your country and say that you helped close out the war in Iraq," said Jones, 23, who volunteered to be in the last convoy. "Not a lot of people can say that they did huge things like that that will probably be in the history books."

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