MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Family and friends gathered at the Combat Center’s Unit Marshaling Area to bid farewell to the Marines and Sailors with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion who left in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 4, 5 and 7.
The Wolf Pack was separated to leave over the course of three days for their third deployment since the first OIF in 2003.
The unit returned less than a year ago from their last deployment under the same mission.
“The unit will support and conduct humanitarian efforts for the freedom of Iraqi people,” said Gunnery Sgt. Larry C. Bivens, 3rd LAR logistics chief, explaining the mission.
Bivens has been with 3rd LAR three different times during his Marine Corps career, taking part in all of their deployments, but will stay behind this time.
“I was wounded during the last deployment, but I wish I was going with these boys” he said. “We are family, and my spirit will be with them.”
“We live by our unit’s motto, ‘the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf,’” he explained.
Pvt. Oscar Boveda, a 19-year-old Miami native, joined the unit a little more than a month ago, and will learn the ways of the Wolf Pack family on the frontlines during his first deployment.
“I haven’t even got settled in with this unit or this town yet,” he said. “But I knew it was part of joining the Marine Corps, and I am ready just as much as anyone else to go.”
His wife, Tatyana, does not like the fact Boveda is deploying so quickly.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “It’s hard because he just got done with training, and they’re putting him straight onto the bus to Iraq.”
But like any other spouse of a service member, she knows it was bound to happen sooner or later, and is forced to accept and make the best of it, she said.
“That’s why I bought her the puppy,” said Oscar, pointing down to the 8-week-old mixed breed puppy sitting at Tatyana’s foot. “We don’t have any kids yet, so I got her a puppy to spend her time with.”
Tatyana will stay in Twentynine Palms with her puppy, Daisy, until Oscar returns.
Not all spouses plan to stay around the Combat Center, such as Kelly Smith, wife of Lance Cpl. Trevor G. Smith, both 20-year-old natives of Puyallup, Wash.
“I’m going to go back home, to my old job,” said Kelly. “This will be our first time apart since his training.”
Kelly sobbed as she slipped a letter into the breast pocket of Trevor’s desert camouflage blouse.
“I wrote him something for him to read when he gets there,” she said as Trevor walked to the unit’s final formation before the buses arrived.
“We went to rival high schools, but we met at the town’s movie theater and been together ever since,” she reminisced as she watched him join the ranks of his unit.
The first time seeing a loved one deploy is hard, and the second time isn’t much easier, said Maria Mendez, wife of Cpl. Miguel Mendez, a Houston native.
“This is round two,” they both agreed.
“It is months and months of worries,” said Maria.
The couple has an 18-month-old son, Miguel Mendez III. Maria will be busy caring for their son, and Miguel will keep him in his thoughts, looking forward to returning to him, they said.
Friends and family of the Wolf Pack comforted each other as they waved to the buses carrying their beloved Marines and Sailors away, 8,208 miles to Iraq. They will keep busy as their heroes keep them safe.