MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Crystal Meyer has only been in California for a few months. She left the only life she’d known, back with her family and friends in Washington state, to marry Cpl. Zackary Meyer, a squad leader with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
Since then, she’s had to make some adjustments.
“Before we got married, I would come out and visit and meet some of his friends,” Crystal said. “It’s very different now. He’s not home all the time, so I am getting used to being by myself a lot, but still being there for him.”
Crystal said she knew what it meant to marry a Marine, but she didn’t really understand what it was that kept him from their home, and walking in the door exhausted.
Thanks to 1/7’s Jane Wayne Day event Oct. 29, 2011, Crystal, like other of the unit’s family members, now has a taste of what her Marine does on a daily basis.
“It has always been when he would say that he is going out into the field, I just think they’re going out and camping, and think ‘Oh that’s pretty fun,’” Crystal said. “But now I could see how it could tire you out.”
The event offered a different perspective for a pair of parents who came out to see what their son has been up to since graduating recruit training in May 2010.
Patricia Hillis and her husband Edward J. Hillis, said they are filled with pride with what their son, Pfc. Cody Hillis, a machine gunner with 1/7, has accomplished so far.
“He has a feeling of maturity, like he grew up,” Patricia said. “He always had a good head on his shoulders, but it was even better than that.”
Patricia and Edward even watched their son in action as he demonstrated how to fire a Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher for the group.
Siblings also took part to see their brothers in the field or to swap war stories from their own time in the Marine Corps.
“It’s awesome,” said Andrew Hooper, the older brother of Lance Cpl. Gregory Hooper, a machine gunner, with 1/7. Andrew is a former Marine infantryman. “Me and him get along a lot better than we have ever before, and we have more things to talk about.”
The chance to check out the equipment his brother will deploy with was something else Andrew said he enjoyed.
“I love it, they have a lot of new things to help keep them safer for when he goes to Afghanistan,” he said. “I am super happy they are spending the money to give the grunts the equipment they need to fight.”
Greg Hooper, the father of Lance Cpl. Hooper, was very impressed with how close the families got to the equipment.
“My oldest son was with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and I was able to attend an event there,” Greg said. “It’s got a lot more hands-on at this event with the vehicles, and being allowed to get in. Of course, the qualified personnel giving the briefs is very informational.”
As the day ended, the families and their Marines slapped off the desert’s dust and boarded the charter buses before heading back home.
Now when Cpl. Meyer kisses his wife goodbye before the next field training operation, Crystal will know exactly what he’s up to.