MARINE CORPS CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Family and friends watched Marines and sailors serving with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, currently the Ground Combat Element for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, march onto the Camp San Mateo parade here, May 13.
Loved ones have been camped out since 3 a.m. waiting to see their servicemember return home safely after an eight-month deployment. The servicemembers deployed Sept. 17, 2012 and traveled to Dubai, Jordan, Oman, China and Hawaii throughout the last eight months.
Marines and sailors of the “Dark Horse” battalion, the nickname for 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, marched across the parade deck and stood at attention in front of their families and friends waving banners, signs and small U.S. flags. After being dismissed from the formation, the Marines and sailors rushed to their eager families.
“It feels so good to be back on solid ground again,’ said Cpl. Daniel Lepsch, an infantryman serving with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “It’s been just over eight months and it feels like it’s been forever.”
Homecomings are special not only for Marines, but also for those who support them.
“One of the things that make 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, so special is that we have an entire community’s support and care,” said Kimberly Reese, the battalion family readiness officer.
The parade deck was filled with families embracing their loved ones. Mothers and fathers held their sons, children embraced their fathers and spouses reunited with their husbands.
“This time it feels better than coming back from Afghanistan,” said Cpl. Jonathan Hunter an infantryman, and Dallas native, serving with Weapons Co., 3rd Bn., 5th Marines. “Honestly, I think it’s because I have a wife and kid now. When I got back from Afghanistan it was just back to the rat race, so I like this much more.”
The battalion has been deployed aboard USS Greenbay, USS Peleliu and USS Dubuque as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The 15th MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised of approximately 2,400 personnel.