On Friday, the dawn opened with Page 2B of The Herald, and anybody who can remember learning to read in an elementary school looked at the bottom right-hand corner of the page and cried like a baby.
There was a tiny advertisement, purchased by a grandmother and grandfather as they do each year, that did not mention the words "Iraq" or "war" or "death."
But it did mention dates - 4/12/86 - 10/21/05.
Death has dates.
And it had a picture of hope and strength and dreams - all that in the face of a kid named Lance Cpl. Kenneth James Butler, wearing a Marine Corps uniform.
Later Friday, word came from the White House and Congress and Pentagon that had sent so many kids to Iraq no matter which political party was in charge - the United States would end the war in Iraq by Christmas. All troops would be out.
The news that all troops were leaving came exactly six years, to the day, after Butler - who grew up behind Richmond Drive Elementary School in Rock Hill - died in Iraq.
"It's about time," said Carlton Butler Sr., the grandfather, a U.S. Navy veteran, who still lives within sight of the school. "They all need to come home."
The war's legacy from the people of York and Chester and Lancaster counties will remain - even when all these troops come home from a war that rightfully became more and more unpopular as it moved on in years.
That's because the reason for the war was a political sham. Iraq was a war of choice. Politicians chose it. More than 4,400 troops died, and another 40,000-some were wounded. It is the tough, the brave, who fight the wars. Politicians make speeches. Grandparents and wives and kids bury the dead.
Paul Neff II of Fort Mill died in Iraq in 2003 - the first from this area to die there. Neff left a son.
Pat Leach of Rock Hill died in 2004 - he had a wife and five kids.
Then Butler in 2005.
Logan Tinsley was killed in action in 2006, and Zandra Worthy-Walker in 2007 - both from Chester County.
Worthy-Walker's grandmother, Frances Jeter, whose home is a half-mile from where her granddaughter is buried, whose late husband was a prisoner of war in Korea, was asked Monday about the troops coming home.
"It's about time," said Jeter, who knows what wars do. They maim, and they kill.
What the men and women from this area did in Iraq was no sham. None were politicians. None chose anything other than to join the military and do their duty.
In 2003, the first group of local Army National Guard soldiers left from Rock Hill and Fort Mill armories for Iraq.
They left on a cold February morning, chilled further by sleet, to go to a place with 120 degrees in the shade and biological and chemical weapons.
Families wept in terror as buses pulled out. Parents reached out hands to try to touch fingers of sons through opened bus windows. Nobody knew, the soldiers included, what to expect or what they would do.
What they did was build roads and schools and fight like hell against the enemy. Guys who had been part-time soldiers were deployed and became full-time combat infantry and engineers and convoy security.
Many of these men had to kill in Iraq.
Steve Davis, a chief warrant officer from Rock Hill, came back from Iraq in 2004 and collected dolls and clothes to send to kids in Iraq. The kids there affected him - and still do. Davis cared nothing about politicians - and still doesn't.
"If we helped them have schools and freedom - just like kids have here - it sure was worth it," Davis said.
In that first group to go to Iraq was a sergeant named Eric Kimbrell, who had two tiny daughters and a wife. Kimbrell went to Iraq that first time and to Afghanistan twice after that, and he missed so many birthdays and Christmases.
Kimbrell said, plainly, that what the Army did in Iraq was worth it.
"We did some things to make their lives better," Kimbrell said. "I'd say that is important."
One of the worst events of 2004 for the Army came when several soldiers assigned to the Rock Hill-based Army Reserve quartermaster unit refused to go on a refueling mission.
The soldiers were fill-ins from other states, but that was Iraq, too. A unit thrown together and not trained properly that embarrassed Rock Hill and South Carolina and America. The Army later disbanded that Reserve unit.
Yet that was a tiny blip in Iraq.
As politicians blared and bleated on, real men, real soldiers, went to Iraq again and again and did all they were asked and more. Most of the soldiers who went to Iraq served valiantly, even heroically.
The Lancaster National Guard unit went to Iraq, too. Heroism came in the form of giving out food and medicine to kids with none and in giving hope to Iraqis who had known nothing but brutality.
Our soldiers gave literally the poorest kids on earth food and clothes and a future. Many area soldiers' families collected food here, shipped it to Iraq, and gave it away to kids.
"As a human being, a person, I know what we were able to give to those kids and those people, and it was worth it," said Richard Smith, who was in Iraq with that Lancaster unit before he was elected sheriff of Chester County.
"It is just humanity. To see how they had to live was to break your heart. We have it made here. We helped them."
Monday afternoon, school let out at Richmond Drive, and Iraq reared its head again in Rock Hill. Like he has done hundreds of times since 2005, music teacher Dave Cole led the kids who walk home down the sidewalk in front of the school. This ritual, with kids who change from year to year, never gets old.
On Monday, 13 kids walked. They stopped at a cherry tree, planted in 2006, that soars above a monument on the ground that the kids read aloud - "Kenneth James Butler. LCPL 1986 to 2005."
"He was 19 years old," said Romi Onessi, 10 years old.
Romi lives down the street and knows the Butlers, whose grandson is dead.
Cole told the kids that Kenneth James Butler, whom Cole himself taught to sing, used to walk the same route they were on to his grandparents' house.
He explained that all the troops would leave Iraq by Christmas. And that some soldiers had built schools in Iraq so kids could learn.
"And we can all hope and pray that no other young man ever dies there, in Iraq, in a war," Cole said.
Then a bunch of little kids ran into the arms of their parents, waiting across the street. Just like In Baghdad and Tikrit, in Iraq, places where schools were built by area soldiers so that little kids could grow up into big kids.