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Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Murmon

From Arwa Damon, CNN// :
The last U.S. brigade combat team in Iraq has left the country, a move that helps U.S. President Barack Obama reach his goal of 50,000 troops in the country by September 1.

Their departure leaves about 56,000 U.S. troops in the country, according to the U.S. military.

Capt. Christopher Ophardt, spokesman for the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, said the last of the 4,000 members of the unit crossed the border into Kuwait early Thursday.

A few hundred members stayed behind to finish administrative and logistical duties but will fly out of Baghdad later Thursday, Ophardt said.

Much of the brigade departed more than a day ago, but the announcement was delayed for security reasons.

Their departure comes more than seven years after U.S. combat forces entered, though their departure does not signify the end of all U.S. combat forces in the country.

Another 6,000 U.S. troops must leave Iraq to meet Obama’s deadline for the end of U.S. combat operations in the country and the beginning of Operation New Dawn, in which the remaining U.S. forces are expected to switch to an advise-and-assist role.

A public information officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, said it will take a few weeks for all of the 4-2’s members to return home. “It is one flight at a time,” she said. “We are expecting most of them to be home by mid-September.”

As they prepared to depart, some soldiers laughed and some expressed relief at having survived multiple deployments. A few reminisced about having endured firefights and helping carry the bodies of buddies off the field of battle. Many said they would never forget the war.

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