President Barack Obama saluted returning troops returning from Iraq Wednesday, declaring that the nearly nine-year conflict is ending honorably, “not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home.”

Marking the conclusion of the war at this military base that’s seen more than 200 deaths over nearly nine years of fighting in Iraq, Obama never tried to declare victory. It was a war that he opposed from the start, inherited as president and is now bringing to a close, leaving behind an Iraq still struggling.

But he sought to declare a noble end to a fight that has cost nearly 4,500 American lives and left about 32,000 wounded.

“The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages,” he said, applauding their “extraordinary achievement.”