MISSION COMPLETED: A total of 1,150 Latvian soldiers have served in Iraq, with many having been deployed multiple times.
RIGA - Almost the entire contingent of Latvian troops serving in Iraq returned home on June 19. They had been serving in the "peacekeeping and democracy building" aspects of the war.
A total of 121 of the 125 troops returned in time to celebrate the Midsummer holiday with friends and family. The remaining four troops stayed behind to oversee the process of sending the troops home and to ensure that the technical equipment and personal belongings of the troops make it home safely as well.
The troops first traveled to Kuwait to meet with psychologists, who evaluated them and discussed the difficulties of returning to a normal life after serving in the war.
The four remaining troops will be replaced by three officers in early July, who will remain pending further developments in the political and military situation surrounding the war.
The Defense Ministry's press service reported that minister Atis Slakteris spoke with the leader of the contingent, expressing gratitude for the troops' hard work.
"During the four years of the mission valuable information and techniques were gained that will strengthen the country and improve the ability to work on international missions in the future," Slakteris was quoted as saying.
Saeima (Latvia's parliament) every year debated pulling troops out but until recently had concluded that their presence was necessary to ensure that ties with allies in the West, particularly with NATO, remained strong.
The final decision to bring the troops home was made in December, not long after two soldiers died and a decision was made to double Latvia's troop presence in Afghanistan. The number of troops in Afghanistan is expected to reach 95 by the end of this year.
Three Latvian troops were killed while serving in Iraq and number of others were seriously wounded.
Estimates of the monetary cost of the war this year alone are around 4.2 million lats (5.9 million euros). Of that, the families of the fallen soldiers received 50,000 lats in compensation and the offer to cover the costs of the rehabilitative processes.