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thedrifter
01-21-07, 08:03 AM
Marines provide Mid-deployment Family Day for Terre Haute-based unit
By Deb McKee
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It was the scene of a party, complete with tables full of food, a scavenger hunt and door prizes, but one question troubled the minds of most in the room: “When are they coming home?”

On Saturday, the Marines provided a Mid-deployment Family Day for family members of Marines from the 3rd Battalion 24th Marines Reservists Unit (Company Kilo), based in Terre Haute and currently deployed to Iraq. For about three hours at the Marine Corps League, wives and parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents and others mingled, decorated blankets to send to their loved ones and learned of various support resources available to them.

Company K has been in the western province of Al-Anbar since late September, with about one-third of the unit augmenting other Marine infantry units, said 1st Sgt. Troy Euclide, family readiness officer for Company K. The unit is expected to come home in mid-April, but rumors of deployment extensions have families on edge.

Maj. Randall Hoffman, inspector-instructor for Company K, addressed the concern, giving a couple of reasons why no news may be good news for family members.

“This is what I know today,” he began. “No one has told me about the possibility of an extension … Three active-duty Marine Corps units have been given extensions, and you can look at that in a good light. Those units have already found out they have an extension, and we have not heard anything.”

Euclide, who said he considers himself a “big brother” to all the Marines from Company K, said, “As of yesterday, there was still no word, which is a good thing.”

Hoffman also addressed a new United States Department of Defense rule regarding shortened time between successive deployments. The rule is still being debated, Hoffman said, adding that it applies more to Army and Army Reservists, and may not matter to the Marines of Company K. “We know nothing about any redeployment,” he said.

130 Marines currently training locally are scheduled to deploy to Iraq in 2008, Hoffman said.

The family members of Company K were shaken in October, when two of their Marines were killed during combat operations. Lance Cpl. Joshua Hines, 26, of Westfield, Ill. and Sgt. Brock Babb, 40, of Evansville died when an improvised explosive device detonated under their Humvee.

In addition to concerns for the safety of their loved ones, family members face more practical stressors.

With tax season coming up, military families can become overwhelmed with the complexity of tax forms for the different types of income earned by the veteran while deployed. Several professionals were on hand during the afternoon to address such concerns.

Mary Ann B. Margosian, program assistant for Military OneSource, said her company can provide veterans and military families with general support in every aspect of life, from free tax assistance, estate planning, “short-term resolution-focused counseling” for stress and family matters and even vacation planning.

“Deployed and active-duty military don’t need to be thinking about problems at home, financial or otherwise, so we provide services that take some of that strain away,” Margosian stated. OneSource has a 24/7 toll-free assistance line, 1-800-342-9647, and a Web site, www.militaryonesource.com, with more information.

Tami Freeze, whose son Jacob Moore is deployed with Company K, used OneSource to help with her son’s tax forms and federal financial aid documents, she said.

Another organization represented during Saturday’s event was the Indianapolis Vet Center. Natasha Allen, herself an Army veteran of the Iraq war, provided brochures and information about the services available. “We have readjustment counseling for combat soldiers of any era,” she said. “The Vet Center is a stepping stone for the veteran, for parents, children and spouses to overcome some of the issues that come up for military families.”

Key Volunteers, spouses of Marines in the unit who serve as communication links between Marines and their families, prepared several craft items Saturday to send to their loved ones. At long tables, kids and adults decorated throws with digitized photos, puffy paints and markers.

Debbi Cole of Indianapolis, “mom of Sgt. Cole,” was on hand to take digital pictures and put them on transfer paper to be ironed onto the throws.

“It means a lot to the guys, just to see a picture from home, see that [family members] are smiling and having a good time.”

When asked about her hopes and the possibility of an extension for the unit, Cole said with a smile, “They’re not going to be – I know they’re not.”

Marsha Cassels of Brownsburg, whose husband Tom currently is deployed with Company K, said it has been tough for their two children, Zack, 15, and Melanie, 14. Marsha and her kids attended the Mid-Deployment day mainly to support their Marine.

“You’d think that you would be here for yourself, to feel like you have a support network,” she said. “But I’m here for my husband, too, because I wouldn’t necessarily want him to get some craft or blanket that didn’t have our picture on it. We’re here probably more for him, so he knows when they send stuff over, we’re here and we’re fine.”

Marsha and her kids can’t wait for Tom to come home, she said. “It can’t end one day too soon. We just can barely stand it.”

Deb McKee can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or deb.mckee@tribstar.com.

Ellie