HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After nearly 9 years of war, the last American combat troops are now out of Iraq and that includes soldiers from Schofield who'll be landing back in Hawaii Sunday evening. Teri Okita and photographer Brenton Awa are the only TV news crew accompanying the 25th on this historic journey.
Tropic lightning troops landed in an undisclosed location in high humidity and heavy rain just hours after leaving the desert one final time. They're officially the last division "headquarters" to leave Iraq.
"Seeing all our trucks get out of there and us get on the ramp was pretty heartwarming because, you know, I've lost a lot of good friends, a lot of good soldiers during this fight, and it's good to know that we've honored them and our mission's complete," said Ssgt. Ray Reneau of the 25th Infantry Division.
Before the trip, though, the chow line. Their "last" hot meal was a pre-thanksgiving dinner on November 21st. Since then, they've been surviving on MRE's, meals ready to eat but ones you really never get used to.
These troops are tired ... Many haven't had a good night's sleep in days ... And they catch a snooze wherever, whenever. On-board, they sleep, but it's nowhere near comfortable. It's the little things that get them through, like a surprise care package or signs that they're one step closer to home.
"Flying in the Spirit of Kamehameha, you see the Hawaii flag, it's really special," said 25th Infantry Division's Capt. Jacob Hina.
Despite the excitement and relief of the war's end, there's still a bittersweet feeling among these soldiers as their mission in Iraq and with Iraqis is now complete.
"You know a lot of time and a lot of American lives have been there. And so, you're glad they're able to stand on their own feet. You're glad they can start doing a lot of things for themselves. But a huge part of our history, I guess, especially the 21st century, was there," said Ssgt. Brock Duffel.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division headquarters will be landing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam about 6:15 Sunday evening. Then, they'll be bused to Wheeler for a homecoming with their families.