Nightly News   |  August 16, 2010

Ending the mission that defined a generation

The Long Way Out: At Camp Liberty in Baghdad, soldiers lower the flag of the last combat brigade in Iraq. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

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Now we move to Iraq, where a milestone is fast approaching: after more than seven years of war, the end of US combat operations . Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is with the 4th Stryker Brigade as they carry out one last mission, to get out and come home.

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: At Camp Liberty in Baghdad , soldiers lower the flag of the last combat brigade in Iraq .

Staff Sergeant TIM OSBORN: I never dreamed I'd be one of the last ones out. In all honesty, when it started up, it felt like it wasn't ever going to stop. Platoon, attention.

ENGEL: For 31-year-old Staff Sergeant Tim Osborn from Ohio , the war has been his twenties. He was here in 2003 to topple a dictator, called back in 2007 to stop a civil war , and now to end combat. He tells me his greatest

accomplishment: giving Iraqis a chance.

Staff Sgt. OSBORN: If what was going on here was going on in America , I wouldn't want my kids to grow up in that world. I would want somebody else to come in and help. And if it took them doing what we did here, then I would welcome that.

ENGEL: But Osborn has had four friends among the more than 4,400 American troops killed in Iraq .

Staff Sgt. OSBORN: The blue and gold stars for my four brothers that I lost.

ENGEL: By an almost impossible coincidence, Osborn has been in the same platoon for three tours with Sergeant 1st Class Joe Huffman from Batesburg , South Carolina . In his trailer today, Huffman waits for orders home. Everything is already packed except his computer, with pictures of family he'll soon see. He, too, believes he's leaving Iraq better than he found it.

Sergeant 1st Class JOE HUFFMAN: Absolutely. For me and for my country, it was worth it. The sacrifice to the soldiers was worth it and what we came to right now at the end, the sacrifice was worth it.

ENGEL: Osborn and Huffman , who started the war together, will be leaving together, too.

Sgt. 1st Class HUFFMAN: Let's go . Let's go . Let's go .

Staff Sgt. OSBORN: Yo, hurry up. Get the ramp up.

ENGEL: A friendship seared in war, ending a combat mission that has defined a generation of the US military . Richard Engel ,