View Full Version : Camp Pendleton Marines leave for Iraq

01-08-06, 07:15 AM
Camp Pendleton Marines leave for Iraq
By: SCOTT MARSHALL - Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Wearing a pink jacket amid a sea of camouflage uniforms, Emma McCurdy grabbed her dad's ears and removed his hat and put it on her head multiple times Saturday morning, prompting him to smile and embrace the 20-month-old girl tightly.

"I'm going to miss a lot ---- seven months of her growing up," Emma's dad, 39-year-old Staff Sgt. Geoffrey McCurdy of Phoenix, had said in an interview almost an hour earlier. "I'm going to miss when she finally says, 'I love you, Daddy.' But I know I'm doing this for a higher purpose. I'll be a better person when I come back."

McCurdy, who bid farewell to Emma and his wife, Barbara, was one of 300 Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment to say goodbye to friends and family Saturday morning before boarding nondescript, white buses for the first leg of their journey to Iraq, where the battalion is being deployed for the third time in the three years since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The rest of the 1,000 Marines and sailors who make up the battalion are scheduled to leave for Iraq in the next couple of weeks. It is the second infantry battalion from Camp Pendleton to be deployed to Iraq for a third time, said base spokesman Lt. Nathan Braden.

The Marines who left Saturday are among 25,000 Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station who will be returning to Iraq during the next three months, Braden said. They are relieving a similar-sized force that is based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Some of the Marines who departed Saturday will be serving their third tour of duty, while others are starting their second or first tours in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Benjamin A. Jones, 20, of Salt Lake City, Utah, said this will be his second time in Iraq.

"We'll just see how it is," Jones said. "I don't know what to expect. I feel like we're pretty ready. We'll just knock this one out, and hopefully that will be it."

A teardrop ran down the cheek of Jones' wife, April, 19, as she stood beside his bus, reaching up to hold his hand. Photographers and reporters surrounded the couple after Cpl. Jones leaned out of the bus window to kiss his wife, and they continued to hold hands until the bus drove away.

"I am so proud of him," April Jones said. "I'm going to miss him."

McCurdy, a Marine for 15 years, also will be on his second tour of duty in Iraq since the war started in 2003. He said he also was deployed in 1998 to patrol the borders of Iraq.

"I don't think it ever gets any easier," McCurdy said of the experience of multiple deployments. "It just makes you better prepared. It never gets easier to leave your family."

Standing and joking around with three other Marines, Cpl. Jose Gudino, 21, of Sacramento, said he is leaving behind his wife and 1-year-old son, who are staying with his parents in Sacramento while he is deployed.

"It's very tough," Gudino said of leaving his wife and son. "I didn't see his birth. I came back and built a relationship with him, and it pretty much goes to waste because he forgets. But it gives me something to look forward to coming back."

Gudino said his service in the Marines and in Iraq is worth the sacrifice "for me to be able to look back when I'm older and say that I did something."

Cpl. Brad Vande Hei, 21, of Green Bay, Wis., said he and other Marines have come to "know the city of Fallujah pretty well." The battalion was one of the lead assault units during a November 2004 operation to take Fallujah from insurgents.

Vande Hei described the feeling of relief after kicking in a door in Fallujah and finding nothing there, then having someone shooting at them a short time later.

"You have to look at the good and the bad," said Vande Hei, who also recalled walking down the streets of Fallujah and having people come up to the Marines to thank them.

For Pfc. Steven Limon, 22, of San Antonio, serving in Iraq will be a whole new experience. Limon signed up to be a Marine in May 2005, after he had proposed to his wife, Misty, 21. They were married in August, they said.

"It's pretty hard, but he's been gone in boot camp," Misty Limon said of saying goodbye to her husband. "I'm pretty used to it, but it's scary where he's going."

Pfc. Limon said he volunteered for the Marines and accepts what he will face in Iraq.

"It's just one of those things you have to do," he said.

Contact staff writer Scott Marshall at (760) 631-6623 or smarshall@nctimes.com. To comment, go to www.nctimes.com.