CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Many Marines who deploy to Iraq say goodbye to their families, sometimes shouting -- “See you when I get back.” But how often is it they say – “See you when I get there?”
That’s just the case with Lance Cpl. Laurel Johnson and Sgt. Jonas Johnson with the 2nd Marine Division Headquarters Battalion. The brother and sister duo found themselves stationed together at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and are now deployed together for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Laurel, a 20-year-old Athens, Mich., native, is a nuclear biological chemical defense specialist who is now operating as a command and control personal computer clerk for the division’s combat operations center. Her military occupational specialty requires her to be an expert in the field of NBC weapons and how to employ the Marines’ defenses against them. But until that becomes a threat, she works on the C2PC, organizing and compiling operational information for the division general and his staff.
Jonas is a trombone player for the division band and a sergeant of the guard for the camp’s guard force, working at an entry control point. The 22-year-old, Ponchatoula, La., native and his band mates have become provisional riflemen, protecting the camp and the surrounding area from the insurgency. Both he and his sister underwent specialized training in the areas of stability and security operations which deal directly with how to operate in combat in Iraq. Their training has taken them a long way from home, but they have a little piece of that here with them.
“We’ve gotten to be pretty close, especially out here in Iraq,” said Laurel. “Before we left, I would go to his house and baby-sit his children and we’d hang out. Now, we go to mid-rats (midnight chow) together. It’s a ritual that we do every day.”
When Jonas and his brother (who is stationed in Okinawa, Japan) joined the Corps, they persuaded Laurel to see the recruiter. She trusted her brothers’ intuition and now they’re together for a combat deployment.
Laurel and Jonas spent a few years apart during their childhood. It wasn’t until Jonas spent his senior year of high school with her that they first became close as brother and sister. They’re making up for lost time, though, as they become closer not only as siblings, but as comrades.
“I was about 13 and she was 10, I think, when we parted,” said Jonas, who attended Ponchatoula High School until his junior year ended. “Despite that separation, our relationship never deteriorated. She’s always been close to me.”
The two are about to part once more, not for long though. Jonas will return home after having spent nearly six months on guard duty here. And Laurel will stay with the battalion until it turns over responsibility to another unit, possibly next year.
“I’ll miss her when I go back,” said Jonas. “Being together out here made it better because it was like having a piece of home.”
“It’s been fun to have him around,” agreed Laurel. “It makes life a lot more entertaining.”