As the ground rattled and earth erupted with a spray of damp sand, Hubert Edwards watched with a familiar gleam in his eye and the slightest hint of a smile.

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Photo via 82nd Airborne/Facebook

At least once a week for the past nine months, Nichole Gallagher and her daughters, Annalynn and Haley, counted the days remaining before their husband, father and best friend came home.

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82nd Airborne Facebook

Qayyarah was the first Iraqi city to be freed from Islamic State control in the last year.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon L. Rizzo

The grueling ground offensive against the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, is entering its final stage. The last few neighborhoods held by ISIS — approximately five square miles of snaking alleyways and narrow city streets — are expected to be the most difficult to retake for the U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thaddius S. Dawkins II.

In the darkness around Fort Bragg's York Theater, hundreds of families alternated between smiles and holding back tears.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Marvin Krause.

Editor’s Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

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