Obama outlines Iraq drawdown in visit to NC Marine base

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverFebruary 27, 2009 

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, then-President George W. Bush told Marines at Camp Lejeune, "What we have begun, we will finish."

Many rounds of combat deployments later, Marines will gather at the base today to hear how his successor plans to fulfill that promise.

In a midday speech, President Barack Obama is expected to describe a plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 18 months. That would be welcome news in Jacksonville, where some spouses have watched their warriors leave for as many as five tours in Iraq.

"It'd be nice to see our people come back," said Thomas Connell of Jacksonville, who works for a support-services contractor at Camp Lejeune. Connell said the frequent deployments wear on people; he sees it in the faces of his Marine neighbors and their families.

"You see them come and go all the time," he said.

About 18,000 Lejeune Marines are now serving in Iraq, along with 3,000 or so from nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

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