MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Homecomings mean many things, like mission accomplishment and some much-deserved time off. But, mostly, it means finally being with family.
When the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment stepped off the buses at Del Valle Field Monday and Wednesday, it was the first time they saw their wives and children in seven months.
For other Marines, the reunion was even sweeter.
Gunnery Sgt. Adam M. Tact, platoon sergeant for Weapons Company, and Cpl. Clay W. Smith, mortarman with Weapons Co., both came home to newborns they had only seen in photographs and videos.
“While he was deployed, we talked by email, and he only got to see some pictures,” said Lulu, Cpl. Smith’s wife, and mother of newborn Andy and 5-year-old Saul.
The hardest part about having him deployed was having their son without him there, Lulu said. She would get up in the middle of the night to feed and take care of him and in the morning she would want to rest, but couldn’t because no one else was there to take care of him.
“Afterwards my mom was there and she helped me for a couple of weeks, but after that you still need the extra help,” Lulu said.
She and her two sons, Andy and Saul, arrived at the Combat Center at 10 a.m. from Oceanside, CA, passing the time talking to other families and thinking of the moment they would be reunited with their father and husband.
Saul ran around playing with the other children, but continually checked in with his mother asking if his father was there yet. Lulu would then smile and respond, almost.
“That’s been going on since we started driving,” she said. “Last night he woke up a couple of times and asked ‘where’s daddy?’”
Cpl. Smith was finally able to meet his 4-month-old son after stepping off the bus. Immediately after spotting her husband, Lulu sprinted to Smith wrapping her arms around him. Smith’s smile spread uncontrollably across his face as he saw his son Saul, and his newborn son Andy.
“It’s amazing being home,” said Cpl. Smith. “I can’t wait to get home and just lay down with my family.”
Andy Smith was born during Cpl. Smith’s deployment May 29, coincidentally, the same birthday as his father. But these two are not the only ones who share a birthday surprise.
Tack met his first child, Ariel, after coming home from deployment, the date of his birthday.
“This is all the celebration I need,” said Gunnery Sgt. Tack as he looked at his daughter, smiling. “It feels pretty good to be home.”
Just like Cpl. Smith, Gunnery Sgt. Tack had only seen his daughter through pictures from emails.
Melanie, his wife, brought Ariel out an hour before the arrival of the 3/4 Marines. As Ariel slept in her stroller, Melanie never looked away from the road that would lead her husband to her.
“I just can’t wait for him to get here,” she said, welling up with tears.
Melanie’s wish was soon answered when the buses arrived. After a few minutes of searching and a phone call later she and her husband were reunited.
Melanie led Tack to the stroller where he picked up his daughter for the first time. He held her out in his arms, staring at her in disbelief, unable to look away.
After seven months of serving overseas, Marines of 3/4 were finally able to come home to hug their wives and see their kids, some for the first time. Oct. 17 was a memorable occasion for most of the Marines returning from deployment, but to others it was a day they would never forget.