MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Family and friends of Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment lined the regiment’s parade deck March 29 at San Mateo for their loved ones’ belated homecoming from Iraq.
The Marines were scheduled to return March 17 from Iraq, after fulfilling their seven-month obligation in the Al Anbar Province, but due to airline bankruptcies, the Marines were forced to extend their stay in the Middle East.
The warriors of 3/5, in typical Marine fashion, adapted to and overcame the situation in front of them and got as comfortable as possible. They enjoyed good food and the ability to make frequent phone calls to their families waiting for them back home while waiting for the flights to the U.S.
“It’s awesome to be home, but having to wait an extra week or so wasn’t too bad,” said Cpl. Joshua J. Wilwerding, a 21-year-old rifleman from Freeport, Minn. “We had better food and living conditions than before and I was able to call my family a lot more. The married guys had a little tougher time, but we made the best of it.”
The Marines themselves weren’t the only ones who faced difficulties with the delayed homecoming; families had planned trips out to Camp Pendleton to see their sons return on the originally scheduled day, only to adjust their plans.
“We came out to California from Denver a week too soon,” said Chris L. Binkley, father of Lance Cpl. Geoff Binkley, a 20-year-old rifleman from Denver. “I had to fly back to work for a week then fly back out; luckily we have friends in the area and my wife Linda was able to take the week off work and stay here,” he added.
Their son was scheduled to return several weeks earlier and was initially a member of the advanced party returning early from his deployment, but because of unplanned circumstances, he was removed from the advanced party list, pushing his return back even further.
Their daughter and LCpl Binkley’s sister Amanda J. Binkley is no stranger to welcoming Marines home from Iraq.
“I have watched a lot of my brother’s friends come home from Iraq, and every time it’s extremely emotional to watch a group of Marines get off a bus and know that Geoff isn’t one of them,” she said.
Other awaiting families have grown accustomed to the ever-changing plans and lifestyles that come with being a Marine mother.
“This is my son’s third deployment with 3/5, and although it was difficult to know his return was going to be delayed, I have become very accustomed to the hurry-up-and-wait attitude of the military,” said Melissa Beach, from Modesto, Ca., mother of Sgt. Justin Hannah.
“I am just so excited and proud of everything my son has done and proud of what his fellow Marines have accomplished, but I am happy they are home now,” she added.
The Marines didn’t stick around very long; they shook hands and hugged their brothers in arms before quickly dispersing to spend time with their loved ones who travelled from all over the country just to welcome home their heroes.