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U.S. soldiers return home Tuesday

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As the United States marked the end of its military mission in Iraq, some of the final troops to leave the country will come home on Tuesday.

A BWI employee raises a 'Welcome Home' banner as they await the arrival of the airmen. (Photo: Suzanne Kennedy)

Some of the last airmen to depart Iraq - about 270 on Tuesday morning and 70 more on Tuesday night - will arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

It was the moment the Walton family of Woodbridge has been praying for. Their father and husband was one of 250 airmen who returned home to BWI airport after being deployed to Iraq.

He's been gone for six months.

“It feels better than you can ever imagine,” says Major Thomas Walton of the U.S. Air Force. “Actually I didn't expect to see all my daughters here. I thought it was just going to be my wife. They all came here to see me.”

The withdrawal ends a nearly nine-year war in which nearly 4,500 Americans were killed, 32,000 were wounded and billions of dollars were spent.

Soldiers have returned by the dozen over the last several weeks.

On Sunday, more than 100 National Guard soldiers from a Fredericksburg-based company returned home.

PHOTOS: Virginia National Guard troops head home

"The fact that we actually made it home for Christmas is awesome," soldier Christopher King said. "It's a great feeling."

Being home for the holidays was no guarantee for some soldiers. The families of the National Guard soldiers didn't expect their loved ones to come home for another six months after departing for Iraq in August.

"It is really a gift to be home," Sgt. Joseph Smith says.

Lieutenant colonel Sam Bass of Alexandria was met at the airport by his wife.

“Being back with my wife on the holidays...you can't make me talk because I'll start tearing up,” he says. “I can't say enough about being home.”

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