"For nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in Iraq," President Barack Obama told soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina this week. "And you, the incredible men and women of Ft. Bragg, have been there every step of the way, serving with honor, sacrificing greatly, from the first waves of the invasion to some of the last troops to come home. So as your commander-in-chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree: Welcome home."
On Wednesday in Baghdad, General Lloyd Austin ordered the colors to be cased -- the US Forces-Iraq flag lowered and wrapped in camouflage -- formally shutting down operations in Iraq.
And now, American soldiers are coming home.
This Navy sailor came home for Christmas -- and just in time to surprise his three kids. In this video from The Welcome Home Blog, their reaction made us reach for the tissues:
"All my daughter wanted for her birthday was for her dad to come home," Wendy writes. "She didn't think he was coming home for another week until she was sitting in class taking notes when he walked through the door!"
Even pets get in on the joy. In this video, Silver can't contain her excitement after not having seen her human, David, in seven months:
"I surprised my wife (and kids) on her birthday by coming home without her knowing," one vet wrote. "It was hard to hide but it was worth every minute."
Also on Shine:
Michelle Obama on how to help military families
Life in a military family: 5 things you might not know
A holiday wish for military families
Michelle Obama: If Malia or Sasha joined the military, I would be proud
U.S. troops in Iraq will be home for the holidays, Obama says