In the end, many of the departing troops wrestled with a singular question: Was it worth it?
Capt. Mark Askew, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida, said the answer will depend on what type of country Iraq turns into years from now — whether it is democratic and respects human rights.
"People are asking themselves: 'Was this worth it?"' he said, speaking to his troops before they set off to Kuwait. "I can't answer that question right now."