For years, Dotty Collins had conflicting emotions about the war in Iraq.

She grieved the loss of her brother, Sgt. Lawrence Roukey of Westbrook, feeling a pain she wouldn’t wish on anyone. But she wanted to know that he died for a higher purpose. Leaving Iraq to anarchy would not honor his memory.

On Friday, she welcomed President Obama’s decision to withdraw all combat forces by the end of this year.

“We’ve lost too many soldiers and it’s gone on too long,” said Collins, whose brother was killed in 2004 while securing a warehouse suspected of containing chemical weapons. “If you bring them back, it won’t be any more loss of life.”

News of the Iraq pullout was welcomed by many in Maine, but tempered by the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, a country that appears much farther from governing itself securely.

Fifty-six members of the Maine National Guard are serving in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East in support of Iraq operations, said Capt. Shanon Cotta, spokesman for the Maine Guard. Other members are preparing to deploy to the region.

Cotta said, “In the next few weeks, the Maine National Guard will have a clearer operational picture in support of Iraq operations.”

Scott Durst was deployed to Iraq with the 94th Military Police Company in 2003. At the scheduled end of the deployment, his unit was kept on because of a shortage of U.S. fighters. The extended deployment became a focus of debate as the U.S. ramped up for what would become — along with Afghanistan — the nation’s longest war.

Durst said, “That whole band of brothers thing is something I will always cherish, but as far as the mission, it was just keeping alive and hoping to get home.”

Durst agrees with the decision to pull forces out of Iraq but said that only time will tell whether the mission helps the Iraqis establish a long-term democracy.

“I hope and pray, in a year or two from now, things are still moving in the right direction,” said Durst. “What a disappointment that would be if it wasn’t.”

Durst said the end of the war won’t erase its effect on those who served.

“It’s changed my whole attitude on what’s important and my attitude of being more active and vocal about the government,” he said. “I don’t have a problem voicing my opinion on if we’re doing the right thing or not.”

Durst’s attention is now on Afghanistan. His son is serving there with the Army’s 126th Infantry.

Durst was shocked when his son declared his interest in becoming a soldier, but the young man has blossomed in the service, Durst said.

“Like a lot of young men in this economy, he saw there were no jobs. He also looked at what I did and said, ‘I want to do something. I want to contribute to my country,’” Durst said.

Maine’s congressional delegation expressed support Friday for the president’s decision.

“The president is making good on his promise to bring all U.S. combat troops home, and I’m hopeful that most of them will be back with their families by Christmas,” said Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree in a prepared statement. “We never should have invaded Iraq and we have paid too high a price for a war that hasn’t made America any safer.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins supported the withdrawal, given a lack of legal protections for American soldiers if they remained.

She said, “I do remain concerned that many U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that they believe a residual force of U.S. troops might have to remain in order to continue training Iraqi troops to help ensure that the significant gains we have made there … are not lost.”

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud said he knows from visiting troops in Iraq “how hard they’ve worked to accomplish their mission. I’ve been seeking a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq for years, and I’m glad we’re getting closer to that goal.”

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said this is an opportune time to remember the sacrifices by the people who served in Iraq.

Dotty Collins remembers her brother as “a quiet soul,” a member of a military family who was drawn to the service for its structure and formality, and by his devotion to his country.

“I think, if called upon again,” she said, “he would do it in a heartbeat, even knowing the outcome.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]