The transition from 2008 to 2009 was highly eventful in Baghdad. On the 28th we received word from the Iraqis that they wanted the palace back on the 1st. Originally the plan has been to vacate the palace but there was a grace period until February. The Grace period was rescinded on the 28th and it became an all hands on deck, mad dash to vacate the Palace.
On the 31st, the Ambassador came and the marines lowered the flag in a close hold ceremony.
As I left the palace I took a pause and looked back. I remembered leaving my last place of employment and my friend prompted me to turn around and take one last look at The White House as we drove off of the ellipse.
I stopped the armored suburban and said, this is it, look back and take it in. There was too much emotion in my throat and body to even begin to describe it on paper. It was one chapter closing and the turn of the page to a blank book begging for a new beginning.
What this new beginning holds, no one knows. Will the fragile peace we have come to enjoy continue? When Iraqis man the checkpoints of the Green Zone will terror and corruption increase threats?
After the sobering ceremony I toiled away a few more hours planning the Embassy Dedication Ceremony to mark the turn of the page at our New Embassy Compound. Guest list of 1400. Visiting VIP from the states kept us from extending invitations until 48hrs prior to the event! I was busy.
BUT took a break to celebration NYE!
Delicious, sit down dinner at Blackhawk with good friends, Arabic food and dancing, followed by a count down at the Marine House.
0600 on January 1, 2009, the Iraqis took they keys to the Republican Palace.
Nothing exploded, the sun was out and we grouped for a game of football on an open patch of dirt.