Bragg soldier on Iraq: 'We left it a safer place'
Posted December 13, 2011
Updated December 14, 2011
Fort Bragg, N.C. — President Barack Obama and his wife will salute members of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg on Wednesday as U.S. forces are pulled out of Iraq.
Although it's Obama's first trip to Fort Bragg as president, the event will be the fourth presidential visit to the post since combat began in Iraq almost a decade ago.
President George W. Bush spoke to troops at Fort Bragg in 2005, calling Iraq "the latest battlefield" in the war on terror.
"Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question, 'Is the sacrifice worth it?'" Bush said.
More than 200 troops stationed at Fort Bragg have died in Iraq since 2003.
Bush returned to the post in 2006 and again in 2008, each time pledging victory in Iraq.
"As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," he said.
Obama promised to end the war as a presidential candidate in 2008 and put a timetable on ending it once elected.
All U.S. troops are to leave the country by Dec. 31.
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, has spent the last year in Iraq, overseeing the day-to-day details of the troop exit. He recently expressed confidence that Iraq can survive on its own, with its U.S.-trained military and police force.
About 3,500 soldiers from Fort Bragg have been in Iraq in the last few months. Helmick said nearly all of them will be home for the holidays.
Soldiers who have recently returned to Fort Bragg from their deployments to Iraq also said they were optimistic about that country's future.
"I feel like we left it a safer place. Now, it's just up to the Iraqi people to do the right thing and keep it safe," Spc. Tommy Anglin said Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will join Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at Fort Bragg to mark the milestone.
"We worked hard and it was a success, and we're all excited that it's over, to be back home with our families and friends," Spc. Brandon Price said.