After having no contact with her soldier husband for a week, Jeannette Juroff was relieved to hear his voice when the phone rang at 3 a.m. Sunday.
She could hear a bit of celebrating in the background since he was part of the last convoy of U.S. troops to leave Iraq as the nearly nine-year war came to an end.
"I had been worried, but then he called and said, `Hi honey. I'm here and I'm safe," Juroff said Sunday afternoon.
Sgt. 1st Class Nate Juroff, based at Fort Hood, was among the very last U.S. combat soldiers to roll out of Iraq across the border into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday. The 500 soldiers left in a convoy of heavily armored personnel carriers, slipping out under cover of darkness and strict secrecy to prevent any final attacks.
Jeannette Juroff, who's an Army staff sergeant based at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, said she is relieved that her husband is out of Iraq and won't face daily mortar attacks and other dangers. This was his second deployment to Iraq.
"We should have done this a long time ago," she said, referring to the troop withdrawal. "We had no business going over there at all and losing soldiers like that."
All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, and hundreds of soldiers have been arriving at military installations in recent weeks because of the troop withdrawal.
Staff Sgt. Elama Palemene held his two young daughters and kissed his wife early Sunday after returning to Fort Hood with about 300 other soldiers. They arrived about 3 a.m. to a cheering, flag-waving crowd of teary wives and bundled-up youngsters on a field at the Texas Army post with temperatures in the high 40s.
"My husband wanted to have (our children) stay behind, but it was a must to have them here," said his wife, Annaden Palemene, who held a large homemade sign that read "Sgt. Palemene, Your Tour Stops Here."
The soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division said they were glad to be home before the holidays _ and relieved to be out of Iraq.
"This was my fourth deployment to Iraq ... so it feels great to be home," said Staff Sgt. James Cantrell, who had just hugged his wife, Brenda, and 7-year-old daughter Janelle.
Several soldiers said they were happy upon hearing the news that the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq at daybreak Sunday. That convoy's exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast U.S. ally.
"I think it's good we're out of Iraq. I think they're ready _ the government and the military," said Spc. Keenan McCoy, holding his 13-month-old daughter Kyrie close to him and hugging his wife Rachel.
Fort Hood officials later said reporters were banned from asking questions about how soldiers feel about leaving Iraq or the war.
Staff Sgt. Palemene said he hopes the country remembers that U.S. troops are still fighting elsewhere in the world.
"It feels good to be home safe and sound, but we should remember that there are still soldiers in Afghanistan," he said.
The war in Iraq cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The quiet weekend withdrawal was a stark contrast to the start of the war, which began with a pre-dawn airstrike in Baghdad on March 20, 2003, before U.S. and allied ground forces then stormed from Kuwait across the deserts of southern Iraq toward that capital.
In late 2003, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, then based at Fort Hood, captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and he was executed in 2006. That division and its headquarters moved to Fort Carson, Colo., in 2009.
Fort Hood has about 46,500 active-duty soldiers. Since 2003, about a third of Fort Hood's soldiers have been deployed, and more than 565 were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to officials at the Army post.