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Posted at 11:40 AM on Thursday, June 25, 2009 by post9807WASHINGTON, June 25, 2009 — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. returned home after spending almost four days visiting American troops stationed in Iraq. His overall assessment: "This war is nearing its end, which has our troops pumped with anticipation and the Iraqi people increasingly hopeful for their future."
Glen M. Gardner Jr., a Vietnam veteran from Round Rock, Texas, entered Iraq on Sunday with the leaders of four other veterans' service organizations for a first-hand view of the progress that has occurred in Iraq. He is the fourth consecutive VFW national commander to visit Iraq.
"Iraq is a different country today because of the tremendous effort of our military to make the surge work," he said. "The assessment that everything is on target for the upcoming handover of the cities was made by everyone I met, from Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding Gen. Raymond T. Odierno to his officers and enlisted soldiers, all of whom have served multiple tours in-country."
Gardner's trip comes a full year after the conclusion of a three-prong surge strategy that focused on security, the economy and political reconciliation. He said the changes on the ground were most noticeable in the eyes of six amputee veterans who returned to Iraq for the first time since being wounded. Their trip was sponsored by the Troops First Foundation, which has a program that allows wounded troops to return to where they were stationed to help close the loop on their wartime service. Gardner called the program "a great initiative, because departing a warzone strapped to a stretcher is not the last memory anyone should have to carry for a lifetime."