President Barack Obama finally made good on his 2008 campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. On Wednesday, the president was at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to welcome troops returning home from Iraq for the last time.

“Because of you — because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny,” said the president. He then thanked the families of the troops who bore the burden of keeping households together and making ends meet while spouses were overseas for long periods of time. “You too have the thanks of a grateful nation,” he said.

In his speech, he also noted that Iraq is not a “perfect place” and that its citizens do still face challenges, but the efforts of the US military were not in vain. He said, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

President Obama showed pride in and gratitude for a job well done. He said, “We are building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle but with a final march toward home.”

The mission in Iraq began in 2003 and lasted nearly nine years. During the campaign, almost 4,500 Americans were killed and more than 30,000 were injured. Witness some of the most iconic images below.

[CNN]