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thedrifter
06-08-05, 05:26 AM
Emotions high as Marines mobilize

By BRAD FJELDHEIM
Of The Gazette Staff


Kelsey Beckett wiped tears from her eyes Tuesday during an informational session for the families of recently activated local Marines as 1st Sgt. George Rabidou explained the contact information form she needs to fill out in case her son is killed in action.


Her son, Pfc. David Beckett, is one of 11 Montana Marine reservists of Company B, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, who reported for duty at the Billings Armed Forces Reserve Center.


"I think it's kind of hit her pretty hard," David Beckett said. "It is kind of a surprise really. We just found out we were activated last Thursday."


The Marines are scheduled to fly out of Billings on Monday for Camp Lejeune, N.C., where they will train for about four weeks in patrolling, security and other responsibilities they will have while in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Matt Marsh. They will join Unit 325 in Iraq, but Marsh is not sure where they will be stationed.


This week, the Marines will gather gear, verify personal information and learn what will be expected of them during their tour, Marsh said. The mental-health experts, chaplains and Marines who have already done a tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom helped their families understand, Marsh said.


They should be done training this afternoon and will be free to spend time with their families until they report back to the reserve center at 4 a.m. Monday, Marsh said.


Pfc. Daniel Burke, 20, was studying computer science at Rocky Mountain College when he enlisted in October. He said he is nervous but ready to go.


"You don't join the Marines without thinking you are going to go," Burke said. "We are all actually pretty excited about going. I think it is going to be a great thing for all of us."


Burke's parents and brother joined him Tuesday, and they hope to return to their hometown of Three Forks for a family get-together during the weekend.


Burke's parents have done this before. His father, D.K., is retired from the Army, but sending a son to war has been difficult, especially for his mother, D.K. Burke said.


Their other son Jake, 19, is an ROTC student at Montana State University, and he shares their apprehension, but feels a personal responsibility.


"I'm kind of jealous of him," Jake Burke said. But the enthusiasm he has for the activated Marines' service in Iraq is not the typical reaction.


Tawna Jackson, 22, has dated Pfc. D.J. Groshans, 23, since they were high school classmates in Bridger. They recently bought a house in Missoula.


"I'm nervous and scared," Jackson said. She hopes to keep in touch with Groshans while he is deployed, and the contact numbers given to her during the meeting helped calm her nerves, she said.


Groshans is also nervous, but it's mixed with excitement, he said.


"It's kind of a hard feeling to explain," Groshans said. But he isn't interested in explaining it right now; he just wants to spend time with his family and girlfriend before he leaves.


Several of the Marines have girlfriends, but none are married.


"They are new Marines that just got done with their schools," Marsh said. All but three are under 21, he said.


The men are the third group of Marines deployed from Company B. About 40 full-time, active duty Marines were deployed in June 2004 and returned in March. A second group of about 20 Marine reservists was sent over in January and is still in Iraq.


The 11 Marines who leave Monday have been activated for a year, but they won't serve any more than seven months in Iraq, Marsh said. They may come home with Unit 325, which is scheduled to return in December, he said.


No matter how long it is, Patrick Beckett, who has wanted to be in the military since he was 5, said he is ready.


"I'm excited to go," he said. "I think it will be good for me."

Ellie