MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- After seven grueling months of carrying out combat operations in Iraq, more than 40 Marines of the advance party of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, returned to the Combat Center Jan. 11 to reunite with their loved ones and lives left behind.
The party arrived to Victory Field in the afternoon where they were met by their families, friends and fellow Marines who expressed their enthusiasm by holding up banners and posters that read “welcome home.”
It was a long and nerve-wracking wait for some wives and family members for their loved one’s return. Tragically, the battalion lost 11 of its members who were killed in action during the deployment. For those who kept in contact with the Marines and Sailors of 2/7 who were serving in OIF 3, the deployment grew more and more difficult for them.
“It was hard to hear about what was happening on the front,” said Pvt. Robert R. Ribinskas, rifleman with Golf Company. Ribinskas, a Ft. Worth, Texas, native, remained behind with 2/7’s Remain Behind Element. An important role the RBE played during 2/7’s deployment was supporting the wives and families of the battalion by giving information of the battalion’s whereabouts and helping out with any other issues the family members dealt with.
“All of us in the RBE wishes we were there with them for the deployment,” continued Ribinskas. “Still, I’m glad that they are coming home now. It feels like yesterday they left this field. I’ve actually been having dreams about them coming back.”
The wives and family members of the Marines and Sailors who were returning arrived on Victory Field early as they anticipated the party’s return.
“It was a long wait, and it was a bit harder for me than his first deployment because of our newborn son,” said Teneyia Wilson, wife of Cpl. Darnel Wilson, field wireman with Headquarters and Service Company. Present with Wilson was her 4-month-old son, Darius, and 3-year-old son, Darnel Jr.
“I was more worried for his well-being than his last deployment,” added Wilson. “But, the RBE kept me informed of what was going on out there, and they answered all of my questions. I know he is hurt right now because he lost some of his friends. I can’t imagine what that was like. As for now I am glad he is home and is able to spend time with his children, one whom he has never seen. We plan to go back to our hometown in Denver to spend time with the rest of our families.”
The experience was new for Marissa Silva, wife of Staff Sgt. Melvin Silva, Headquarters and Service Company. Present with her at the homecoming ceremony was their 3-year-old son, Alejandro, and her in-laws.
“It was me and my husband’s first deployment,” said Silva. “The time away from him was nerve-wracking. I was always thinking about him and what he was doing. I did keep in contact with him mainly through e-mails. He assured me that he was doing well but in the back of my mind I knew he wasn’t telling me everything. I am just really glad that I will see him here today. I can’t sit still. We plan to go back to the Bay Area where we can relax and spend time together.”
The homecoming event was a success, and all who came out to see their loved ones return were filled with joy when the advance-party bus rolled up to Victory Field. The rest of the battalion is scheduled to return to the Combat Center and reunite with their loved ones in the near future.