"The enemy has a vote in this too," Shellito said. "So we'll see how that goes."
Shellito said he had "a reasonable degree of confidence" his soldiers would be back by the end of July. "But if you'd called me two days ago, I'd have said I was reasonably confident that they'd be coming home in March," he added.
"You don't plan anything until they step off that plane. Then you know they're home," said Connie Fox, 25, of Foley, Minn.
To help her husband, Sgt. Jared Fox, cope with the delay, she plans to send him a DVD of their 20-month-old daughter, Anna, giggling, throwing tantrums, doing her trademark twirling dance, and repeating her favorite word: "No!"
"I don't want him to ever feel like he's left out," she said. "We're his family and we'll always be his family, no matter how long he's over there."
In the sprawling desert west of Baghdad, some troops said they were counting on their loved ones to respond in precisely that way. Marines at Al Qaim -- who shipped out from Twentynine Palms last year -- said they had long expected an extension of duty because they're stationed in Al Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni insurgency.
"It's kind of bad for families," said Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Silva, 22, of East Los Angeles. "But if it's to make a better Iraq, I guess it's all worth it."
Simon reported from Denver and Perry from Al Qaim, Iraq.