View Full Version : Marines in Valentine's farewell

02-17-04, 06:32 AM
Posted on: Sunday, February 15, 2004
Marines in Valentine's farewell

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

For Marine Cpl. David Kennedy of Cleveland, Ohio, Valentine's Day was the start of the third chapter of the most exciting time of his life.

Already Kennedy, a computer forensics expert, has lived in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, hacked valuable intelligence out of a laptop belonging to the Iraqi leader's son Odai and, as of yesterday, was eager to begin his third tour of duty in the Middle East.

Kennedy was one of 36 Kane'ohe Marines from the 3rd Radio Battalion who left Marine Corps Base Hawai'i yesterday afternoon for Kuwait and the Central Command.

"I'm only 21 years old and I've done more than I can ever imagine," said Kennedy. "It's fun for me, but it's hard for my family. I'm an only child. ... And my girlfriend back in Ohio, she's pretty worried, too."

Made a promise

Erin Neale, in North Olmsted, Ohio, admitted she's facing Kennedy's deployment with some trepidation.

"We've only been together for a couple of months, so it's hard for me," said Neale, 23, who got a silver necklace from Kennedy for Valentine's Day. "Very hard, actually. I've never had to go through anything like this before. He did promise me that he'd take me to Hawai'i when he gets back."

The three dozen Marines who left yesterday were headed to the Middle East to prepare for the main deployment of 150 Marines later this month or in early March. The members of the 3rd Battalion will be assigned to the First Marine Expeditionary Force and will supply communications support and conduct electronic warfare, said Lt. Col. Mark Aycock, the battalion commander.

Aycock said that after his two decades in the Marines, he finds that deployment never gets any easier for either families or Marines. He offered these words to the loved ones of those who are heading into harm's way:

"My job is to do everything I possibly can to make sure that your Marine or your sailor, or soldier and airman if they are attached to us, have the tools they need and the training they need to come home alive after they have accomplished their mission."

Low-key Valentine's

For most at yesterday's predeployment get-together of friends and relatives at the base, it was a low-key Valentine's Day. There were few hearts and flowers at the open-air gathering. Many said it's difficult to say goodbye, holiday or not. For some, Valentine's Day almost made matters worse.

"This is my first Valentine's Day with a girlfriend — and now I'm leaving her," quipped Cpl. Joel Paula, 21, as he shared a few final moments with Navy Petty Officer Regina Chandra, 22.

"We're going to celebrate when I get back."

For Sgt. Kevin Martin, the toughest part was leaving his girlfriend, Sgt. Amy Blackmore, and their week-old daughter, Sadie — all 6 pounds, 14 ounces of her.

"It would be hard to leave, no matter what day it was," said Martin. "Leaving a child like this makes it a lot worse. I'm just happy that she came before I left so I'd get to see her."

It was Martin's first deployment. Staff Sgt. Andrae Bibbs had seen it all before. Bibbs said his goodbyes to friends and loved ones before he even arrived.

"I've only been here for about three weeks — I'm actually stationed in California," said Bibbs, 28, who was deploying to the Middle East for the second time. This time, though, things would be different, he said. Before, during the actual war, you knew who the enemy was. Now, with enemy insurgents, that's not possible.

"There's really no way to train for a thing like that," Bibbs said. "The best training is to be prepared on your basics — like paying attention, staying alert, listening and following orders.

"And, marksmanship. Especially marksmanship."

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.




02-17-04, 06:34 AM
Valentine’s Day
finds Marines
bound for Iraq


By Mary Vorsino
Leaving his wife, who's five months pregnant, and three children for a half-year military tour in Kuwait and Iraq was hard enough yesterday for Maj. Don Welch. But deploying on a day dedicated to love made it even harder.

"On Valentine's, you don't think of leaving -- you think of getting closer," he said, with a chuckle.

Standing inches away was Welch's wife, Carlynn, who held back tears as she talked about the Valentine's Day gifts -- cards and a compact disc of family photos -- that she and her young children prepared for Welch's departure.

"If anything, I got a lot more 'I love you's' than other people get" on Valentine's Day, she said.

Thirty-five members of Camp Smith's 3rd Radio Battalion stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii left for the Middle East yesterday afternoon.

Another 115 of the battalion's Marines and sailors will follow next month.

Military officials said the soldiers will support their fellow Marines already in the region by providing communications and electronic warfare.

"It's never easy leaving any day of the year ... for a situation that we're going into," said the 3rd Battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Mark Aycock, who will be heading to Iraq in March. "I can't promise that everybody can come home."

Nearby, Sgt. Kevin Martin stood in the shade, rocking his week-old infant asleep.

"Things worked out and I got to see her born," he said quietly, so as not to wake the baby. Martin's girlfriend, Amy Blackmore, looked on.

"We knew it was coming for months," she said, adding that the couple have been spending more time together since they learned of Martin's deployment. "I think it would be hard no matter what day it is."

For many deploying yesterday, the tour was their first in Iraq.

"I'm anxious," said Sgt. James Viator, as he knelt in the grass with his 2-year-old daughter, Izabel. "The day doesn't matter. It's just a day."

Melissa Acevedo threw her husband, Nathaniel, a combination birthday and Valentine's Day party earlier this week.

His birthday is today, but Melissa gave him a digital camera in advance to shoot some photos of their two children, ages 6 and 4, before he left.

"It's hard, but I'm hanging in there," she said. "I'm just going to spend it (Valentine's Day) with my kids. I'll take them out on a date," she added with a laugh.

Yoko Messere didn't like the idea of her husband, Steve, leaving on Valentine's Day. But, she said, looking at her husband, "I tried not to make it special because he's going to be sad."

The soldiers flew out of Hickam Air Force Base last night. Before the soldiers left, their commander gave them some parting words of support.

"You all need to pay attention to what you're doing out there," Aycock told the soldiers. "I'm also asking you to look out for each other."