Families, friends, Combat Center welcome home 3/7

31 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Families and friends of the Marines and Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment left different areas of the country to gather at the Combat Center’s Victory Field March 29 and 31 to welcome home from Iraq their seven-months-deployed loved ones.Anticipation and anxiety ran high on both days as families showed up hours in advance to reserve a spot on the field, where they could post their welcome back signs and wait to greet their loved ones with hugs and kisses.The return relieved a lot of stress and worry for many families, such as the Fords from Little Rock, Ark. Their pride streamed through the whole family, even the youngest, Matt Ford, the 9-year-old brother of Lance Cpl. Marc A. Ford, an ammunition man with Lima Company.“I wrote him every chance I had,” said Matt as he waited in desert digital pattern utilities for his brother to come home. “I even got to talk to him on the phone when he was gone. He told me a lot about Iraq. He told me it was a very bad place right now, and they’re making it better. I was pretty scared. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”Matt has a picture of him hanging up in his fourth grade classroom. He’s very proud to have an older brother to look up to, and he dreams to become a Marine like his older brother, he said. He even role-plays as an infantryman when he plays with his friends at home.“My friends thought it was very cool that my brother is fighting in Iraq,” said Matt. “All the Marines that were out there are our heroes — especially the ones who don’t come home. I’m very happy that he’ll be home now. He has a new [convertible] car waiting for him at home, and he will be taking me to school with the top down.”As the buses arrived at the base, the loved ones demonstrated overwhelming happiness and emotion, anticipating the moment they would reunite with their service members.“I’ve never felt like this ever before,” said Marsha Cossich, Ford’s mother. “I was right here on this base the day he left, and it’s a nicer feeling coming back because I feel a whole lot better today. I’ve been so excited, I couldn’t sleep or eat. I just can’t wait to actually leave with him.”The Ford family showed their patriotism and pride by wearing homemade T-shirts with the face of their Marine and an eagle, globe and anchor on the front. They appreciated the hard work of the Marines and Sailors, and the sacrifices their families have made. Their thoughts and prayers go to the parents of the service members who died, Ford’s mother said.Lance Cpl. Francisco J. Conroy’s family and closest friends traveled from his hometown of Phoenix, to be present for his return. Conroy is a mortarman with Weapons Co., 3/7.“We all drove here to not only show or tell, but express our pride and appreciation to all the Marines and Sailors who deployed,” said Conroy’s mother, Maria. “We talked to him at times when he was out there, but he didn’t want to say much. He knew I would worry.”“But I know he needs our support and that’s why we came out here with some of his friends too,” she continued. “There are so many Americans that are dissatisfied about what is going on, but our boys are out there and they are proud to be there. I always tell my son how proud I am of him and he knows it.”The time, efforts and sacrifices the battalion left out there was definitely worth the reception awaiting us, said 1st Sgt. Joseph C. Breze, Weapons Company first sergeant, talking about reuniting with their family and friends. “We did a lot out there,” said Breze, a Pittsburgh native, who says the latest deployment was different from their previous one. “I’ve seen the difference in the country since we’ve been there last. Our company did an outstanding job. We got dirty, fought every day and gave 100 percent effort nonstop.”