Discuss as:

Moving out: Last US soldiers leave Iraq

Mario Tama / Pool via EPA

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division rejoice in the convoy staging area before departing Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, Dec. 17, near Nasiriyah, Iraq.

From NBC News, msnbc.com staff and news services:

Mario Tama / Getty Images

The final section of the last American military convoy to depart Iraq from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crosses over the border into Kuwait on Dec. 18, in Khabari Al Awazeem, Kuwait. Around 500 troops from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division ended their presence on Camp Adder, and departed in the final American military convoy out of Iraq.

NBC News' Richard Engel tweeted from the border: "The gate to #iraq is closed. Soldier just told me, 'that's it, the war is over.'"

The final column of around 100 mostly U.S. military MRAP armored vehicles carrying 500 U.S. troops trundled through the night along an empty highway, across the southern Iraq desert to the Kuwaiti border.

The Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, at a time when national defense was a top priority for Americans still shocked by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. It continued with the invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein, then ground through years of war against an insurgency that left tens of thousands dead.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

U.S. Army soldiers perform a casing of the colors ceremony signifying the departure of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division as they depart in the last convoy from Camp Adder near Nasiriyah, Iraq on Dec. 17.

Among those dead were nearly 4,500 Americans, and the war cost $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.

"It's good to see this thing coming to a close. I was here when it started," Staff Sgt. Christian Schultz said just before leaving Contingency Operating Base Adder, 185 miles south of Baghdad, for the border. "I saw a lot of good changes, a lot of progress, and a lot of bad things too."

"A good chunk of me is happy to leave. I spent 31 months in this country," said Sgt. Steven Schirmer, 25, after three tours of Iraq since 2007. "It almost seems I can have a life now, though I know I am probably going to Afghanistan in 2013. Once these wars end I wonder what I will end up doing."

Read the full story here.

Pool via Reuters

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division hug while preparing to depart in the last convoy from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Dec. 17. The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending their withdrawal after nearly nine years of war and military intervention that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.

Maya Alleruzzo / AP

U.S. Army soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, inspect their body armor at Camp Adder during final preparations for the last American convoy to leave Iraq.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division secure equipment to a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle while preparing to depart in the last convoy from Iraq at Camp Adder, Dec. 17.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division play football while waiting at a staging area in Camp Adder to be part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave the country near Nasiriyah, Iraq on Dec. 17.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Specialist Matthew Hildebrandt from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division smokes while preparing to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, Dec. 17.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division celebrate through the roof hatches of their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles as they drive out on the U.S. military's last combat patrol in the country, at Camp Adder near Nasiriyah, Dec. 16.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

A soldier from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division cleans a housing unit to be turned over to the Iraqis while preparing to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, Dec. 17.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

A soldier from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, walks through the nearly deserted Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, on Dec. 16.