CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- A crowd full of smiling faces shedding tears of joy erupted with applause and shouts of "Welcome home heroes!" as Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, returned from a seven-month Iraq deployment March 23.
More than 200 Marines with 3rd MLG met anxiously awaiting friends and family members during a late-night reunion in front of the battalion armory on Camp Hansen.
"I'm happy to finally be back with my sons, my wife and my mother," said Staff Sgt. Ramon D. Rivera as he hoisted his 3-year-old son Kaden onto his shoulders.
During the return, Sgt. Robert Winslow's 2-year-old daughter, Brighten, was initially stunned by the sight of her father. But that feeling quickly gave way, and she was overcome with excitement.
"When I first arrived she was speechless," Winslow said as his daughter stole his hat while he was holding her. "But after a few moments, she warmed up to me."
Two Marines returning home from the deployment found new additions to their families.
Gunnery Sgt. Tyrone Cantey's wife, Barbara, introduced him to his newborn son, 5-month-old Nathaniel, wrapped tightly in a blue blanket.
"We've been waiting for this," Barbara said.
However, new father Staff Sgt. Jonathan Villarie's wife Yoshie and newborn child did not attend the ceremony. Yoshie gave birth to their new daughter just a few days before his return and was recovering in the hospital.
Staff Sgt. Villarie said as soon as all his Marines were taken care of he planned to travel to the hospital and see his newborn daughter.
The Marines and sailors returned home from a three-fold mission, said Lt. Col. Mark. J. Menotti, the commanding officer of 9th ESB. They built new roads, repaired buildings and constructed observation posts and command outposts for the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces.
"A lot of what we did was turning space over to the Iraqi people," Menotti said. "We basically built structures for them to operate out of and help prevent vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices."
The Marines conducted more than 300 successful missions while deployed to Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, according to Menotti.
"I couldn't have asked for a better bunch," Menotti said. "These guys were constantly outside the wire engaging the bad guys."
Lance Cpl. Sean M. Kasler, a motor vehicle operator with 9th ESB, noted that the deployment was strenuous on the Marines, but teamwork led to mission accomplishment.
"It was a lot of physical labor, but everyone pitched in no matter what their (military occupational specialty) was," Kasler said. "Everyone worked together and we did excellent."