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Najet Martinez, 6, holds up a sign for her father, Staff Sgt. Calixtro Martinez, during Marine Unmanned Aerial Squadron 3’s homecoming, May 19.

Photo by Cpl.William J. Jackson

Phantoms return home

24 May 2013 | Cpl. William Jackson

More than 50 Marines and sailors with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 returned from Afghanistan to be welcomed home by a cheering crowd of family members and loved ones during their homecoming event May 19.

VMU-3 fans occupied the unit’s

compound for hours prior to their arrival. During the festivities children ran around with signs and family members and friends snapped photos memorializing the end to the Phantoms’ seven-month-long deployment. The crowd interacted with each other anticipating the long awaited embrace of their Marine.

The Phantoms arrived by bus at their compound at approximately 8 p.m. where they were greeted by their commanding officer and sergeant major.

“I don’t want to waste your time because I know everybody’s ready to get off,” said Lt. Col. John Thurman, commanding officer, VMU-3. “Welcome back, it’s good to see you and thanks for all of your hard work. We’re really proud of you. Everything we’ve been getting from forward is all positive. Good job, every one of you.”

As the Marines and sailors exited their busses they turned in their weapons, and picked up roses to give to their loved ones.

“Oh my God!” shouted Staff Sgt. Calixtro Martinez, ground training chief, VMU-3, to his three children, Najet, 6, Soley, 5, and Scarlet, 1. “I told you guys not to grow. You’ve all grown so big.”

For some families this was a first deployment and for others it was a well-known part of life, but all rejoiced in being reunited with the ones they love. The crowd slowly dispersed throughout the night as their loved ones finally took them home.

“After 7 months of 24/7 operations it’s great to be back so that we can recharge and prepare for the next fight,” said Capt. Chris Perry, operations officer, VMU-3.

The battalion returned home from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron provided day and night intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and logistics support to units within the Regional Command Southwest area of operations. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 who deployed earlier this year replaced the VMU-3.

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