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Baucus, Tester: Honor our troops at home and abroad

With the formal end of the war in Iraq, Montana's U. S. senators called on all to honor the troops returning home and still abroad, and to ensure they have opportunities and services, and urged speeding up the return of U. S. soldiers from Afghanistan.

Thursday marked the formal end of the U. S. war in the Middle-Eastern country, with the last of the U. S. troops scheduled to be home by the end of the month.

"While we celebrate this long-awaited homecoming, may we never forget our fallen troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom, " Baucus said in a release issued Thursday. "Our troops have made America proud and fought valiantly against tyranny in Iraq. It's time they come home to a nation that shows its appreciation by making sure veterans have access to good-paying jobs and the health care they have earned.

"I'm especially proud of all the Montanans who have volunteered for service at greater rates than almost any other state in the country, " Baucus added.

Tester also applauded the U. S. soldiers in a release Thursday.

"The end of this war begins a new chapter for both America and Iraq. Over the past decade, America's troops opened the doors for Democracy, laying a strong foundation for Iraq's future, " he said. "Iraq will no doubt face challenges in the months ahead, but the U. S. military has done its job. It is time for our troops to come home with our gratitude and our respect. "

Thursday's low-key ceremony ended the nearly nine-year U. S. war in Iraq, which started with the search to oust dictator Saddam Hussein and led to the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis, left another 32,000 Americans and far more Iraqis wounded, and cost the United States more than $800 billion.

Baucus also re-iterated his call to bring the U. S servicemembers home from Afhganistan, a call which has intensified in the months since U. S. Navy Seals killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden May 1.

"I also believe it's time to bring troops home from Afghanistan to focus on rebuilding America rather than nation-building overseas, " Baucus said.

Tester also applauded the U. S. soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and the servicemembers who will not return home.

"As America's soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen return from Iraq, we must not forget the thousands of Americans still in harm's way in Afghanistan and around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and with the families and friends of the 4,484 Americans who never came home from Iraq, " Tester said. "We will remember them as heroes.

"And while honoring our veterans with our words, our nation also must honor them with our deeds, and provide them and their families with the quality of care and services they have earned and deserve, " he added.


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