Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Seventy-seven Marines and Sailors scheduled to leave Sept. 21 for a stint in Iraq, were performing last minute checkout procedures at about 9:30 a.m. when they heard the news of an earlier flight for Sept. 20.
The men of Bravo Company, 1st Tank Batallion were released to take care of their own personal items and were told to return in an hour to prepare for departure at 11:30 a.m. for the unit’s third deployment in the war against terrorism.
Families and friends gathered in the parking lot behind the battalion’s headquarters to bid farewell to the troops.
Staff Sgt. Myron Tapio, a tank crewman, was a little surprised the flight was rescheduled, he said.
“I’ve known since I got here in January that we were leaving at about this time,” said Tapio.
“We’re sad, but we’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” added his wife Monique. “So, whether he goes today or tomorrow doesn’t make a huge difference.”
This is Tapio’s first time deploying. He isn’t nervous to deploy, because as a Marine, everyone gets his or her chance to go, he said.
For other Marines who have deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom like Lance Cpl. Chris Campbell and his wife, Bambi, each time gets a little easier. Campbell has gone all three times the unit has deployed.
The first time Campbell deployed was shortly after their marriage. The unit was gone for approximately nine months.
The day the unit left for their second tour, Bambi went into labor, and Campbell was allowed to stay until the next party left for Iraq a few weeks later. It made things a little easier to have a baby to take care of to occupy her time, she said.
The unit was gone for about seven months and came back a year ago this month. Their daughter, Liberty, is now almost 20 months old.
The hardest part of deploying, most troops say, is leaving their loved ones behind. Cpl. David A. Francisco II, a welder, and his wife, Ashley, haven’t been apart for the last five years since his time at basic training.
“It’s hard to see him go, but I’m really proud of him,” said Ashley.
“I’m leaving today to go home with my family in Michigan,” said Melita Nelson, wife of Seaman R.J. Nelson, a Navy corpsman. “It’s going to help a lot to be with my family. I can’t imagine going through this alone.”
With most units going on their third tour, the people involved are used to saying ‘see you later,’ and finding ways to make time quickly pass by.
Some spouses left behind are involved in the Key Volunteer Network, like Monique. Most spouses are going to school, like Bambi. Others even go back to their hometown with their families, like Melita.
Bravo Company’s deployment is scheduled to be seven to nine months long. They are estimated to return in the spring after accomplishing their mission.