Amid the jubilant homecomings, some Americans were grieving, including hundreds who attended memorials in North Carolina and Kansas and three Texas servicemen who will be pallbearers for their brother.
At Salisbury National Cemetery in North Carolina Thursday about 300 people gathered to bury Pfc. Jerry King of Winston-Salem.King, 20, was killed Feb. 26 - the day before President Bush ordered the end of allied hostilities - with five other members of Fort Bragg's 20th Engineer Brigade. They were clearing a minefield in Iraq.
King was buried among the graves of some 15,000 fallen soldiers from every major American war since the Civil War.
"He tried to do his best, and he was the best," Sgt. Major Eugene A. Ledbetter said in a tribute to King.
A combat helicopter hangar at Fort Riley, Kan., was packed Thursday with 1,600 soldiers and civilians who shared in the mourning for 18 members of the 1st Infantry Division who died in Operation Desert Storm.
Post commander Col. Gary L. LaGrange told the crowd their fallen comrades were a reminder of the "high price of freedom and the precious price of peace."
The same hangar that housed the memorial service will be the site of reunions Friday night when about 175 soldiers return from the gulf.
Emma Stephens-Bell's joy at seeing three of her four sons return to Houston was tempered by the knowledge they were sent home ahead of their units for the funeral of a fourth son who was killed in the war.
All four of her sons were deployed to the gulf. When the body of their brother, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stephens, 27, arrives the three surviving sons will carry his body to Texas City, Texas.
Christopher Stephens was killed when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was destroyed by heavy-arms fire.
"I'm glad to have them home - but I'm sad about the reason they're here," Mrs. Stephens-Bell said.