President Barack Obama marked the end of the Iraq War Wednesday, saluting troops has they returned to Fort Bragg, N.C.
More than 200 soldiers from the U.S. Army base were killed during the nearly nine years of fighting in Iraq.
Obama said the conflict is ending honorably, "Not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home."
Accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, the president addressed service members and their families.
"The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages," he said, applauding their "extraordinary achievement."
"We knew this day would come. We have known it for some time now," Obama continued. "But still, there is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long."
Obama said the long war had many twists and turns, but one constant remained -- the patriotism and commitment of U.S. troops.
All U.S. military forces will be out of Iraq by Dec. 31. The long war cost 4,500 American lives, left about 32,000 wounded and cost billions of dollars.
In his speech, Obama said that Iraq "is not a perfect place."
"We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We are building a new partnership between our nations," he added.
Even though some polls show a majority of the U.S. public favors ending the war, several Republicans have criticized Obama's withdrawal, arguing that an unstable Iraq is being left behind.
It was the president's first visit to Fort Bragg, which is home to Army Special Operations, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne.
Special Forces troops from Fort Bragg were among the first soldiers in Iraq during the 2003 invasion.