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Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, are welcomed home by cheering friends and family during their homecoming ceremony at Victory Field Aug. 3. More than 300 returned from Fallujah, Iraq.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Families celebrate as their Marines come home

7 Aug 2009 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine and Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

It was an exciting week for Combat Center families as more than 350 Marines and sailors returned to the Combat Center from deployments.

An advanced party of nine Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 7 returned to the Combat Center July 30 at CLB-7’s battalion headquarters. They were welcomed with banners, cold drinks, and boxes of pizza set up in a battalion conference room.

While operating in and around Al Asad, Iraq, CLB-7 delivered crucial supplies like drinking water and fuel to coalition forces, said Gunnery Sgt. Christine Britt, the operations training staff noncommissioned officer in charge and assistant camp commandant of Camp Korean Village.

Two main bodies of CLB-7 Marines and sailors are slated to return this month and in September.

Marines and sailors from 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Tank Battalion, came home after a seven-month deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit training with foreign military units.

Nearly 20 Marines and sailors came home from the MEU, and were greeted by family members and fellow 1st Tanks Marines behind the battalion’s headquarters building.

Melissa Saxman, the wife of Staff Sgt. Larry Saxman Jr., said she has been counting down the weeks, days, hours and minutes of her husband’s homecoming.

“We have been married 10 years and I have been through three deployments, but I still get so excited whenever my husband is coming home,” said Saxman, an Erie, Penn., native. “He has been deployed for seven months, but he had three months of training before he went so I didn’t get to see him before he deployed.”

1st Lt. Brent Timmer, the executive officer of Co. D, 1st Tanks, said he was glad to be home with friends and family, but felt a MEU was a great way to explore the world.

“We stopped in a lot of places and conducted different types of training all around the world,” said Timmer, a West Olive, Mich., native. “While we trained we were acting as a reserve unit. If anything flared up in our part of the world, our job as a MEU is to take care of it.”

The 13th MEU traveled to Qatar, Djibouti, Kenya, Hawaii, Guam and Malaysia, and was on standby if they were needed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The men of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and the 1/7 advanced party, also returned to the Combat Center’s Victory Field Monday.

More than 300 Marines and sailors returned from their most recent deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, where the unit was responsible for three separate missions including providing support to the Iraq security forces, supporting civil reconstruction, and the draw down of American forces in theater, said Maj. Jason Perry, the battalion’s executive officer. During civil reconstruction, Marines took on projects such as helping build Iraqi schools and installing water purification systems in towns, said Perry, a Flat Rock, N.C., native.

The warriors of 1/7 were also responsible for drawing down forces by setting up the conditions necessary for American forces to reduce their presence in Iraq.

“The Marines did an outstanding job in one of the most rested areas in Iraq,” Perry said.

For many friends and family members, knowing their heroes were in less danger in Fallujah thatnthe city was known for at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom came as a great relief.

“This is our son’s first deployment,” said Mary Miller, a Hoxie, Ks., native about her son, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Brian Miller, a rifleman with Baker Company. “I feel more proud than anxious.”

For others, their excitement at their loved ones’ return was no less despite it not being their first deployment.

“The first time he was deployed, we were engaged,” said Erika Bryant, wife of Cpl. Jordan Bryant, a field radio operator with Baker Company. “This time we lived together, so when he left, it was more noticeable that he was gone.

“I’m so excited now – I have butterflies in my stomach,” said the Port Angeles, Wash., native.

Lance Cpl. Randon Atkinson, a rifleman with Weapons Company, 1/7, summarized the feeling many Marines and sailors had at that moment.

“It feels damn good to be back,” said the Dallas native.

Nearly 600 more Marines and sailors with 1/7 are slated to return throughout the month of August.

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