FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUMMERALL, Iraq — Memorials for fallen U.S. soldiers used to stand amid the sand and trailers of this sprawling base in northern Iraq like signposts.
Their names were written on concrete blast walls. The gym, the dining hall, the recreation center — all were named after someone.
But as troops here and at dozens of other bases across the country close down their posts or turn them over to the Iraqi military amid a summerlong thinning of forces, the memorials are one more thing that has to go.
Sgt. Jason Vangundy, who like many others here served with the same unit in eastern Baghdad during the "surge" in 2007 and 2008, said the dramatic decline in violence that has set the stage for the U.S. to begin leaving Iraq was its own reward.
"To know that my friends didn’t die in vain, that’s a satisfying turning point for me," he said. "That’s what we fought for — to get to this bridge and cross it."
The last of the U.S. troops headed down to the base’s airstrip, once named after Spc. Morgen Jacobs, a 20-year-old Californian killed by a roadside bomb in October 2004.
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