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Lejeune Marines return home from deployment in Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200523155542
Story by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 30, 2005) -- After seven months battling insurgents in Iraq, approximately 850 Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment returned to a cheering crowd of family and friends here Jan. 28-30.

The Marines arrived at the elaborately decorated Area One Gymnasium in three waves, beginning Friday night. Music and refreshments were provided by the battalion’s Key Volunteer network for the weary travelers.

“The Key Wives and (family readiness officer) did a great job setting up the homecoming,” said Maj. Mark E. Winn, the battalion’s executive officer. “It goes to show why 1/8’s Key Volunteer program is one of the best in the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force).”

The newly arrived Marines looked tired after their long journey from the war zones of Iraq. But as they were surrounded by their loved ones, their eyes lit up with happiness at the simple pleasure of seeing their families for the first time in seven months.

“It’s hard for me to explain how I feel right now,” said Lance Cpl. Kendrick Smith, 20, a supply clerk and Ahoskie, N.C. native. “I guess I feel a lot like a little kid at Christmas.”

But with happiness comes a little sadness for their fellow Marines who gave their lives in battles supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Even though all the Marines are excited to be home, we’re all sad for the loss of our brothers out there,” Winn said.

Twenty-one brothers lost their lives and approximately 135 were wounded during the many difficult missions they endured in the seven months they spent in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. These missions included attacks on insurgent strongholds in the cities of Hit, Rawah and Fallujah.

“The Marines had to participate in three or four different scenes,” Winn commented. “They did an outstanding job.”

The battles in Fallujah were the biggest engagement the battalion faced in the deployment. These battles helped to clear the city of insurgents and allowed the capture of large amounts of weapons and ammunition.

“I was in the first Gulf War and that was nothing compared to the battles in Fallujah,” commented Winn.

The attacks the Marines participated in against the insurgents were not the only operations within the city. They also supported the city with humanitarian assistance helping the citizens in the city during the bloody battles.

“We distributed food, water and blankets to the people who were stranded in the city,” Winn added.

These humanitarian operations were also conducted in other cities within their area of operation. They helped distribute school supplies, build multimedia-learning centers and worked to improve agricultural irrigation with projects in the area.

Working to not only fight for the freedom of Iraqi people but to also improve their way of life can be an exhausting task. So the battalion will soon take time off to spend time with loved ones and come back rested and rejuvenated for upcoming training operations to continue the fight in the Global War on Terrorism.

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