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201029-M-9595T-134::r::::n::Cpl. Cesar Rojas, Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, kisses his wife Arielis Rojas, while holding his 5-month-old son Gabriel during a homecoming celebration at Del Valle Field at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 29. Rojas is meeting his son Gabriel for the first time. Gabriel, who his mother describes as just active and "exactly" like his father, was born in June, a month after Rojas deployed.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

3/12 comes home to loving families

29 Nov 2010 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Family and friends braved frigid Combat Center temperatures to welcome back the Marines and sailors of Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment Nov. 29, 2010, at Del Valle Field after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Battery L, an artillery unit attached to 3rd Bn., 11th Marines, served as part of 1st Bn., 11th Marines, an artillery battalion out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. The Combat Center-based cannoneers replaced Kilo, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines, in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

“I am very glad and fortunate that they are coming back safe and sound,” said Lt. Col. Ed Abisellan, the commanding officer of 3rd Bn., 11th Marines. “They have been gone for seven months, and by all accounts they have done a tremendous job.”

The families were especially happy because the unit suffered no casualties, and some of the Marines met new additions to their families for the first time.

“He missed his son’s birth by a couple of weeks,” said Arielis Rojas, wife of Cpl. Cesar Rojas. “He knew that it was probably going to happen, and we were both kind of disappointed. Every time he called from Afghanistan, he would only talk about seeing him.”

Even from across the world, Rojas was able to read a story to his son.

“He sent him a video of him reading a book, and I show it to (his son) all the time,” Arielis said.

Children old enough to remember their fathers before the deployment could not contain their excitement of finally being able to see their dads again.

“His older daughter [14-months-old] has been smiling all day and saying ‘da-da’ around the house,” said Collette Austin, Sgt. Anthony Austin. “She should recognize him, because she has seen photos of him every day, talked to him and even has a daddy doll.”

As the Marines, sailors, family and friends left the field, the service members were just as happy as the families to be back home.

“It feels unreal,” said Lance Cpl. Micah Hatch. “It has been a long seven months, we did good things out there, and it is feels good to finally be in the real world.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms