Today, after nearly nine years of conflict, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta declared an official end to United States military operations in Iraq.
"For nearly a decade, the United States has devoted immense energy and resources to the development of a democratic Iraq. Americans can be proud of what our military has accomplished and Iraqis can celebrate a free society," said Rep. Buerkle
"Our time in Iraq has seen the fall of a tyrant and a new democracy born, but it remains a fragile environment. Ongoing instability in the Middle East creates challenges for the developing country and the United States must continue to assist Iraq in becoming a stable and prosperous nation.
"We welcome our returning troops with pride and appreciation and we recognize that the war in Iraq has come at a great cost. No words can adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe to our troops and their families. Our men and women in uniform and their families have endured immense sacrifices; they have served multiple deployments, missed special times with loved ones, and over 4,400 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice in the name freedom.
"As we look toward the drawdown of troops in Iraq, we must prepare for the important work of welcoming our soldiers home. It is essential that we provide our returning troops with the support and resources they need. We must come together to make sure the men and women in uniform who have given so much for us have what they deserve."
United States involvement in Iraq began in March of 2003. The United States suffered nearly 4,500 casualties and 32,000 wounded. The final drawdown of troops is anticipated before the New Year.