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thedrifter
02-02-07, 07:49 AM
More Marines head out for Al Anbar duty in Iraq
February 02,2007
CHRISSY VICK
Daily News Staff

Carly Heneise grabbed her Marine for one last kiss Thursday afternoon.

Her mood matched the weather - gray and stormy. It would be the last embrace she'd get for the next six months, at least.

Her boyfriend, Lance Cpl. Patrick Hrezo, 22, grabbed his gear shortly after to deploy to Iraq for a year. The two are focusing on his two-week "rest and relaxation," during that year, when they plan to spend time together somewhere in Europe.

"I'm scared, but I kind of feel like it's a test for us," said Heneise, of Jacksonville, Fla. "If we can make it through a year, we can make it through anything."

About 200 Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force headed out Thursday to complete the transition of the command element at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The group is taking over from I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"They're going forward to the Al Anbar province to help the forces there, to bring security and stability to that area," said Lt. Col. Fritz Pfeiffer, headquarters battalion rear commander. "If we can bring a certain level of security and stability to the area, that's going to set the stage for the Iraqis to take control."

If that happens in the next year, Chief Warrant Officer--3 Jeffrey Matthews, counter-intelligence with II MEF, will have been a part of two key events in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of the initial invasion into the country in 2003 and came home shortly after the initial cease-fire.

Matthews says he's ready for his mission, but that doesn't make saying goodbye to his wife, Jerlyn, and children, Jeffrey, 12, John Alan, 8, and Candace, 6, any easier.

"I just try to talk to the kids and let them know what's going on," Matthews said. "They're used to deployments, but not for a year."

He says the sacrifice is worth the price.

"You do it for your country, but ultimately you're doing it for somebody," he said. "I do it for my family."

President Bush has faced criticism since he announced in January his plan to push forward with the war by sending in more troops. Matthews says he'd like people to remember he volunteered for the job.

"No one is drafted," he said. "All of these men you see here, they're all volunteers. We sign a contract and we have one commander-in-chief."

When Hrezo volunteered over a year ago, Heneise said she wasn't happy. But that changed.

"I was so mad when he joined the Marines because I knew he'd leave," Heneise said. "But now I'm proud of him and I'm proud to be a Marine girlfriend. It's a privilege."

She doesn't feel the troops should pull out of Iraq.

"I don't think people should be allowed to go for a year - it's not good for the families," she said. "But we're in this war and we can't just leave."

Jeffrey Matthews II says his dad is just doing his job.

"I know he'll be back," he said. "I'm going to help my mom while he's gone - do the laundry, wake my brothers and sisters up to make it easier for my mom.

"That's what my dad would want."

Jerlyn Matthews will try to keep a steady schedule and a normal routine for the three children.

"Their dad is already taken away, so those things need to stay normal," she said. "I'll stay focused by trusting and believing in God."

After 18 years as a Marine wife, Matthews, like her husband, says it never gets easier to say goodbye. As for President Bush's decision, Matthews leaves it in the hands of a higher power.

"The way I see it, he's the president and he makes the best decisions he can make," she said. "But in the end, God as it all under control."

Contact staff writer Chrissy Vick at cvick@freedomenc.com or by calling 353-1171, ext. 239.

Ellie