CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- On Feb. 23, 2015, MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Super Stallions transported Marines from Company G, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, to their anxiously awaiting families on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. For most of the Marines, the homecoming was a reunion, but for some, it was an introduction.
This was the case for Lance Cpl. Craig J. Riggle, a machine gunner for 2/1. Two weeks before departing, Riggle and his wife, Amber, found out they were having a baby, and thus began a demanding seven-month deployment, said Riggle.
“I would get letters saying how she was doing and pictures of how her belly had grown,” said Riggle. “Then, about two months into the deployment, I got the sonogram of the baby. I grinned from ear to ear.”
After landing on post, Riggle rushed to turn in his M16A4 service rifle. With his heart pounding and eyes wide, he headed to the parade field. With his head on a swivel, he finally spotted his wife next to a baby carriage. He dropped everything in his hands and off his back and rushed to hug her.
“It was unreal. It didn’t hit me until I was in front of the baby carriage, about to hold my son, Graham,” said Riggle. “The anticipation from waiting for Amber to unbuckle him from the baby carriage was killing me.”
Amber had been waiting for the return of her husband with a homemade sign that read, ‘Get out of my way; I get my daddy today’. She had been waiting there with the sign in one hand and the baby carriage in the other for 5 hours.
“I was so happy my two boys finally got to meet,” said Amber. “Now we can all go home as a family and he can spend some much-needed time with Graham.”
However, this homecoming wasn’t just the Riggle family’s reunion. Across the parade field, many other families were being reunited with their Marines.
Sgt. Jordan D. Vicars, a machine gunner with 2/1, was also meeting his baby girl for the first time.
Seeing the text from my wife saying she was here made my heart race, said Vicars. Anticipation filled the air.
“I tried not to think about it until now,” said Vicars. “But when I saw her, it hit that this was real.”
Moments like these filled the entire day as Marines continued to arrive in waves late into the night. By air or by sea, Marines with 2/1 made it home to their families safe and sound with stories to tell and time to make up for.
Even though Marines look forward to a homecoming, they know their job in the Marine Corps is just as important for every U.S. family, as much as their own families. As 2/1 and the rest of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit settle back into Camp Pendleton, the families of the 15th MEU prepare to say goodbye.