Iraq: Combat ends, sacrifices don’t

Amy Hendrix is going to be an unhappy bride if she has to move her wedding date.

Her fiance is one of the 50,000 or so U.S. troops expected to remain in Iraq through next year. He’s scheduled to come home in March, about a month before their spring wedding.

President Obama announced the official end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq last week and praised troops for their “enormous sacrifices.” More than 4,400 U.S. troops were killed in the war, many more were wounded and almost 1.5 million American troops had to spend long days and nights away from their families while they fought in Iraq.

We asked military families to tell us how the Iraq war has affected their lives and how they feel about combat operations coming to an end. The response was powerful — page after page of stories from wives, husbands, mothers and sons.

Hendrix said she’s proud that her husband is making a difference in the world and supports him 100 percent, but she fears that the troop drawdown will make things more dangerous there.

iReport: Hendrix on standing behind her man

“I believe that the war will be over when every American soldier is home safely with their loved ones,” she said. “Then I will be able to sleep easy at night not worrying about that dreaded 0300 [3 a.m.] phone call that might come.”

Newlywed Devan Rieck knows that feeling well. Her husband has been in the Army for six years and spent more than half of that time overseas.

They’ve only been married four months, but they’ve been together through two of his three deployments to Iraq.

“It will be an awesome time when I can feel a warm embrace instead touching the computer screen,” she wrote in her iReport.

iReport: Still waiting, quietly hurting

Rieck said it will be so nice when her husband doesn’t have to have toiletries and the other little luxuries we take for granted mailed to him from 7,000 miles away.

She said her husband’s base still gets fired on regularly and their conversations often end with air raid sirens and a hasty, “I love you, gotta go.”

The 50,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq are there to train, assist and advise Iraqi troops, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the fight. On Sunday, American forces helped repel a suicide attack on an Iraqi military base that killed as many as a dozen people.

Home and Away: Share your tributes to fallen soldiers

“Many friends and family members are frustrated with reports that the war is coming to a close and that troops are home, but there are still thousands of what are being called ‘assist’ groups on the ground,” she told CNN.

Rieck said her husband’s unit is scheduled to get a two year break from fighting when they get home in October, but she knows that could change because of the situation in Afghanistan.

Spc. Amanda Thibault said military families are under a lot of strain because the same group of troops has been carrying the load in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s led to long deployments and little time at home.

Thibault and her husband Sgt. Jonathan Thibault are both on active duty. They’ve been married for five years and have two children, Faith, 4, and 2-year-old Brodie.

“It’s really hard when one of us or both of us are gone away from our kids,” she said.

iReport: The war has affected our whole family

Her husband came home from Iraq 13 months ago, but spent another four months in Alaska while she was stationed in Georgia.

She’s scheduled to leave active duty in October and her husband is being deployed again in April.

Thibault said she’s happy the combat mission is over in Iraq, but said troops are still in harms way.

“There’s still a war going on and until it’s all over my family will continue its fight for freedom.” -CNN