PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The war in Iraq is over.
The United States Military formally ended the nearly nine-year war with a ceremony known as “The Casing of the Colors,” on Thursday.
Troops lowered the United States and Iraq flags, rolled them up and wrapped them in camouflage.
The ceremony symbolically marks the end of the mission which cost the United States $800 billion.
Far higher a price is the number of lives lost during the war. In total, 4,500 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis were killed.
Not to mention, 32,000 Americans were also wounded in Iraq.
It has been 8-years since Sgt. Nicholas Tomko died for his country and five years since the American flag was placed in his father’s hands.
It may as well have been yesterday.
“It was 11 o’clock at night and I couldn’t sleep that night. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and there was a sergeant there,” Jack Tomko said.
That memory of learning of his only child’s death is engraved in Jack Tomko’s mind.
Nick Tomko now rests next to his mother in the shadow of a sweet gum tree. The war in Iraq is now officially over, but not for Jack Tomko…
“This is the first time that I put up the tree for Nick,” he said.
There had been no Christmas in their Evans City house since Nick died.
Sgt. Nick Tomko was 24-years-old when he was killed in an ambush while escorting a convoy on Nov. 9, 2003, near Baghdad. He was only a month away from coming home for Christmas.
Jack believes that fighting the war for Iraqi Freedom was worth it, but he said there’s still too much unfinished business.
“And if they bring them home I can say, ’Look the war is over, but not until they bring them home. Bring everybody home,’” Jack Tomko said.
Jack said his thoughts are with so many other parents like him.
“I know what they’re going through, especially during Christmas,” he said.
With each passing day Jack believes he’s a little tougher, but what he wouldn’t give for a chance of one more hug.
On this day, the American flag no longer flies over Iraq. But, the neatly folded Stars and Stripes in Jack Tomko’s living room will forever bear testimony to the cost of freedom.