Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
Families and friends welcomed the Marines and sailors of Regimental Combat Team 2, Feb. 12, 2011, as they returned home from a one-year Afghanistan deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hours before their arrival, a local D.J. played music and kept hundreds of visitors updated on the Marines and sailors’ impending arrival to the staging area, which was right outside the RCT-2 barracks aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“I’m very excited because I haven’t seen him since June 1st when he came home for (rest and relaxation),” said the wife of Cpl. Saxon Schmauderer. “The first thing I want to do is give him a big kiss. I even made a sign that says, 'Kiss your wife!'”
Schmauderer and his wife married just before he left for his deployment.
“This will be the first time he’s seen our new house,” said Schmauderer’s wife. “He kept joking with me. He kept saying he was worried the house would be too girly without him here,” she added with a smile.
“I have a great respect for anyone who has gone through this or is going through this now,” she continued. “This time apart from him has been very hard, but there isn’t a greater feeling than right now as I wait for him to finally get back.”
The excitement of RCT-2's arrival to the welcoming area began to rise as a working party of Marines unloaded gear and green sea bags from busses.
As the working party aligned the travel bags in neat rows, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters watched anxiously, unsure of what to expect.
The mother of Lance Cpl. Steven Bell said she was also looking forward to traveling to San Diego in two weeks to welcome home her other son, Lance Cpl. Andrew Bell, who is currently serving in Afghanistan.
“This year has been rough,” said Bell’s mother. “My oldest has been in Iraq before, but I’ve never had the both of them leave at the same time. I don’t know what I’ll do when I finally see him. I’m sure I’ll definitely cry.”
She and her husband both volunteer as family readiness officers for their local recruiting station.
“We really appreciate the Marine Corps,” she said. “The Marine Corps took two good kids and made them better.”
Suddenly the wait was over and cheers erupted from the crowd.
About a quarter of a mile away, about 300 Marines and sailors clad in desert camouflage utilitys appeared from behind trees as they marched in a formation toward the visitors.
The crowd seemed to display the discipline of those for whom they waited, but became louder as they waived their signs with nothing more than thin white tape keeping them from charging forward.
The Marines finished their march, and as soon as they were dismissed from their formation, the crowd broke across the white tape to be reunited after spending so much time apart.
The Marines and sailors of RCT-2 accomplished much during their tour in Afghanistan.
“RCT-2's mission was to conduct full-spectrum counter-insurgency operations in the Northern Helmand and Nimroz provinces,” said 1st Lt. Barry Morris, the public affairs officer for RCT-2. “The Marines and sailors of RCT-2 did an outstanding job. We could not be prouder of the work they did.”
“They took about 12 acres of barren desert and transformed it into Forward Operating Base Delaram II,” continued Morris. “What once was an empty plot of rocks and dust, now boasts a regimental headquarters with an assault strip and helo pad with enough infrastructure to support an RCT and a multitude of enablers.”