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Published December 15, 2011, 10:04 PM

Local Vets React to Official End of Iraq War

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - On Thursday, the United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq. The final few thousand troops left in Iraq will soon be coming home for good.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - On Thursday, the United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq. The final few thousand troops left in Iraq will soon be coming home for good.

Thursday's closing ceremony at the Baghdad airport marked an end to a war in Iraq that began in 2003. Local veterans of that war shared their own feelings.

"It was just the realization that, that you know, times are changing and we're moving on," Dan Benson, who served two tours in Iraq with the Army, said.

"I'm happy to see that all my, I guess you'd say my brothers and sisters, coming home and that they can be home with their families, especially kind of toward the Christmas time," Christopher Hutton, who served one tour in Iraq with the ND National Guard, said.

The 4,000 troops still in Iraq will be home by the end of the month. Both Benson and Hutton say they're proud to have been part of the mission.

"I was just pleased to have had the chance to play a role each time that I was there, and really proud of those that I had served with," Benson said.

Benson served two tours in Iraq with the Army. Hutton served one tour with the National Guard. Both had very different missions, but say the progress they saw in the country makes them confident that Thursday's end was the right move.

"Throughout the course of the year we were there, the less attacks were on us, the more we dealt with the Iraqi national guard, the more they started taking over control points and stuff like that on their own," Hutton said.

"It was just a chance to better myself and do something for my country and it's been very rewarding," Benson said.

At least 4,000 forces will remain in Kuwait for a few months. The troops will be able to help finalize the move out of Iraq, but could also be used as a quick reaction force if needed.

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