Nightly News | December 14, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The president promised they'd be out by New Year's Eve and here they come. American men and women in uniform are coming home after nine years, 4500 lives lost and tens of thousands of injuries, and staggering sacrifice here at home all the while. The war started with the event somebody called shock and awe, and it became a tragic and prolonged slog. The US and allied troops fought bravely. Iraqi civilians suffered terribly. Now the fighting phase comes to an end though far from a storybook ending. The president marked the occasion today with those in uniform who are just back from there, and NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker starts us off tonight. Kristen , good evening.
KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Good evening to you, Brian . Well, President Obama struck a reflective tone today when he addressed a crowd of returning war veterans . Mr. Obama has opposed the war since his days as a state senator, and today he said it's harder to end a war than to begin one.
President BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Fort Bragg !
WELKER: Appearing before a sea of service members at Fort Bragg , North Carolina , the president and first lady marked a pivotal moment in the nation's history. After nine years in Iraq , all the troops are returning.
Pres. OBAMA: Welcome home . Welcome home . Welcome home .
WELKER: The speech, a tribute to the 1.5 million Americans who served and the nearly 4500 who gave their lives.
Pres. OBAMA: Hard work and sacrifice, those words only begin to describe the costs of this war.
WELKER: The president, facing a tough re-election battle, did not declare victory in Iraq , but has called the withdrawal a campaign promise kept.
Pres. OBAMA: We are ending a war not with a final battle but with a final march toward home.
WELKER: But back in Washington , his former opponent John McCain said the withdrawal is purely political.
Senator JOHN McCAIN: I believe that history will judge this president's leadership with a scorn and disdain that it deserves.
WELKER: But for soldiers like Jesse Lucas , who served three tours in Iraq , today is a moment of celebration.
Mr. JESSE LUCAS: Makes me proud that we did our -- we did our job over there. And the president is getting us home because we pretty much had it taken care of. You know, the Iraqis can handle themselves over there now.
WELKER: Now, President Obama also had a message for Congress today. He told the crowd that Washington could learn from the troops and their ability to work together. All of the troops will be out of Iraq by the new year. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Kristen Welker at the White House starting us out tonight. Kristen , thanks.