NORTH CANTON, Ohio - Judith Pryor-Graves has lived with the fear and uncertainty of the Iraq War for nearly nine years, so you can understand why she feels "stunned" that the war is over.
The North Canton woman had seen many of the news reports that President Barack Obama promised to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, but it was hard to believe until the last convoy of troops left Iraq on Sunday.
"I woke up this morning, the first day of Christmas week, and I can honestly say I feel relieved," Pryor-Graves said.
Judith's oldest son, Army Staff Sgt. Curtiss Graves, served four tours of duty in Iraq, completing the last deployment in 2010. He was scheduled for another deployment to Kuwait this month, but that was canceled.
"That's good news. That's good news," Pryor-Graves said.
Her younger son, Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Graves, also went to Iraq four times. He recently finished a deployment in Afghanistan and is currently on a military base in Germany.
Judith isn't sure if one or both of her sons will make home for the holidays, but she's ready. The table is already set for dinner with Christmas plates, candles and a small, decorated Christmas tree serving as the centerpiece.
The excitement of the end of the Iraq War is tempered by the reality of the number of people killed during the war that started in 2003. Nearly 4,500 American and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives were lost.
Pryor-Graves said she feels blessed that neither of her sons was injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, but as a military mom, she continues to worry and believes her sons will be called again to serve.
"Afghanistan is still wide-open. Seventy-three soldiers just left from here (the Canton area) last Sunday going to Afghanistan," Pryor-Graves said.