CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Inclement weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the friends and family as they waited to welcome home the Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat team 5 as they returned home from a yearlong deployment to al-Anbar province, Iraq.
When RCT-5 arrived to al-Anbar province in January of 2008, attacks on Coalition forces hovered around 16 per week and Marine battle positions through the area of operation numbered in the fifties. As the regiment prepared to depart Iraq, attacks were below two per week and the battle positions, as part of a campaign to reduce the Coalition force footprint, have shrunk to approximately 10.
“These Marines not only did their jobs as a headquarters element, they also served on Provisional Rifleman Platoons as fixed sight security to help spread out our manpower throughout the area,” said Lt. Col. Robert McCarthy, executive officer, RCT 5. “Now it is time to come back and reunite with their families. A year is a long time to be away.”
During the regiment’s deployment, the Marines and sailors’ contact with their families was limited to phone calls, e-mails and care packages sent from home.
“It feels wonderful to have him come home,” said Merideth L. Maggard, who welcomed back her husband. “The hardest part was him being gone when the baby was born.”
Many of the families were able to rely on each other for support as they coped with life without their loved ones.
“I had a lot of family support and I would always call up the Marine wives to talk about problems,” said Maggard. “Now that he is back, our only plans are to stay at home and play with the baby that’s all he said he wants to do.”
Despite being away from the many comforts of America for the past year, simply spending time with friends and families was the priority for most of the Marines and sailors.
“It feels great to be back,” said Sgt. Justin E. Sweda, 23, from Joliette, Ill., who is an S-1 administrative clerk with RCT-5. “We might go to Disney World, but I am just ready to get back home and rekindle my relationship with my wife and my children. I have been gone for a while so we are just going to make up for lost time.”
As the Marines were released to finally greet their families after the end of the long flight some walked and some ran to their loved ones, but all were smiling as they were greeted by cheers, car horns honking and signs all conveying the most important message possible, “Welcome Home.”