TODAY   |  August 04, 2013

After multiple deployments, troops return home for good

For many soldiers in the Army, homecomings have meant they would soon be preparing to go back to war. As the U.S. prepares a final exit from Afghanistan and Iraq, that is no longer the case. TODAY’s Lester Holt reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> by the end of next year the nato combat mission in afghanistan is scheduled to be over and by then the obama administration expects to have brought home most if not all u.s. troops .

>> so that means after years of multiple deployments, those units coming home now likely won't have to return. we were in georgia this past week to greet a group of returning soldiers who we met in afghanistan last fall as they and their tamm lis welcomed a new reality. for as long as most of these soldiers have been in the army, homecomings have meant they would soon be preparing to go back to war.

>> i'm used to coming home and hurry up and getting back into training.

>> tearful greetings with before long become tearful good-byes.

>> it really hits you at night when you go to bed alone.

>> after five deployments since 2003 four to iraq and one this past year to afghanistan , the army's third infantry division has just returned home to ft. stewart, georgia , and with the u.s. planning to largely pull out of afghanistan by the end of next year, it appears this division won't be going back anytime soon.

>> so now they can take time for themselves. they can take advantage of going to school. they can take the opportunity for their family to settle down and be stabilized.

>> we were with elements of the third id in kandahar last fall. it's where i first met captain steve as he led his troops this search of taliban rocket placements. now back in georgia after two deployments to afghanistan , he, like the army as a whole, is in transition.

>> before our priorities were being successful at war. being successful in our mission and now my job is essentially the same but we're focused on a doctrinal readiness.

>> as the returning troops learn to reintegrate into life state side , so do their spouses. how do you feel about maybe having him around for a while?

>> i will love it. i will really love it.

>> did you worry a lot while he was over there?

>> i did. i have problems sleeping at night.

>> i tried not to tell her too much about afghanistan . i would just try to keep in contact with her and let her know i'm okay.

>> on the last deployment the third id was focused on training afghan forces. major general robert abrams who, until this week, commanded the division, says their mission was successful.

>> they've done an incredible amount and they have sacrificed tremendous both they and their families.

>> but success came at a price.

>> he was killed in southern afghanistan .

>> rat ft. stewaat ft. stewart, among rows of trees dedicated to the members lost over the last decade, general abrams reflects on his soldiers who didn't come home.

>> when you lose soldiers under your command, it's personal and it stays with you forever.

>> americans are still dying in afghanistan . 85 so far this year. and even as captain steve set nools life state side , a part of him will remain over there until the last soldier comes home.

>> they're still doing a mission. what's frustrating for me is when it seems like no one back here really understands that soldier is still trying to complete a mission and he gave his life to complete that mission.

>> completing that mission in southern afghanistan where the third id has operated the past year is the fourth infantry division out of colorado. they took over regional command responsibilities there last month. and we don't know what life is going to look like at the end of 2014 . the combat mission and the administration is debating whether to pull out all u.s. troops , maybe leave a few thousand there. that's all he worked out.

>> it's always nice, too, to see that followthrough and see what happens. you imagine the relief as you get into it a little bit but a little bit of apprehension as you try to navigate and figure out the new normal.

>> they're happy to be back. there are still a few members of the third id who have been on all five deployments, the four to iraq and one to afghanistan . some of them have only done two, three, but we still ask a lot of folks in uniform over the