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Sue's Views: Thank our local soldiers

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This past Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq returned home to U.S. soil bearing the U.S. Forces-Iraq flag.

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The ceremony to retire the flag was the symbolic end to the War in Iraq. Under Army custom the flag will be retired and either stored or displayed.

I watched the brief ceremony several times on many different television networks, and have read and re-read the remarks from the occasion.

I was supposed to be writing the annual Dieter Christmas letter so the holiday cards could finally get in the mail and arrive before Christmas.

But I watched that brief military ceremony over and over and over because it seemed such a simple way to end nine years of war.

The war began in Baghdad in March 2003, and more than one million Americans served in Iraq at some time during the military action.

In welcoming home the crew that brought back the American flag that flew over Baghdad throughout the conflict, President Obama said, "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages."

The end of any war is big news, but this one included my friends and family in a way that I've never experienced. I'm sure that it wasn't much different than any previous war in that way - as long as there are soldiers, there will be families at home, worried.

And that is what the President spoke of. "There have been missed birthday parties and graduation," Obama said. "There are bills to pay and jobs that have to be juggled with picking up the kids. For every soldier that goes on patrol, there are the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters praying that they come back."

The War in Iraq has been a major event in American history. Yet I'm not sure I can adequately explain what the war was about.

But that is not today's news. Today, the war is over. And I think we should pause and take note of that. Every one of us should thank the men and women who served in Iraq, along with their families. This community did an excellent job of sending our soldiers off, supporting their families in their absence and welcoming them back. I am sure that we won't forget the Iraqi War veterans, but let's make sure to tell them that as we are again saying how glad we are that they are home and safe.

Pentagon figures show almost 4,500 American soldiers died in this war, with more than 32,000 wounded.

We'll also try to do our best to remember those local soldiers who died while serving in Iraq:

• Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize, a Hancock graduate and a St. Cloud resident, died April 4, 2010, in a noncombat accident while serving in Iraq with the 367th Engineering Battalion, U.S. Army;

• Staff Sgt. Kevin M. Witte, 27, of Beardsley, died Oct. 20, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq, serving with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany;

• Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park and Morris, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery;

• Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka, 24, of Appleton, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery;

• 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, Tracy, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery.

• Cpl. Demetrius L. Rice, an Ortonville graduate; died July 14, 2004 in a non-combat accident in Talafar, Iraq while serving with the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

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