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thedrifter
02-03-08, 07:53 AM
Snow can't stop these Marines

February 2, 2008
By DAN MORAN DMORAN@SCN1.COM

NORTH CHICAGO -- After six months in Iraq, a little 7-inch snowfall and 500 cancelled flights at O'Hare International Airport weren't going to keep Lake County Marines from making it home.

Though their plane was delayed twice making it out of North Carolina, members of the Great Lakes Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron made it back better late than never Friday, welcomed by friends and family who sent them off to the Mideast in July.

"July 21 was his last night home," said Cindy Adams of her son, Lance Cpl. Scott Johnson of Winthrop Harbor. "Then they met on July 22 at Great Lakes, and they left for Iraq."

Adams added that "there was a lot of crying."

Since then, parents, spouses and children made do with limited correspondence, mostly via e-mail but also in the form of an occasional phone call -- though with limitations.

"He hasn't been able to tell us anything, just that he's safe," said Linda Solomon of Winthrop Harbor, whose son, Staff Sgt. Robert Kuzelka, also shipped out last summer. "He would ask us things, like how we were doing, what we were up to."

Owens and her family shared a similar experience.

"Scott would contact me about once a week, but he couldn't tell me where he was. He couldn't even tell me how many guys were in his troop," she said. "We had to keep things very general."

Kuzelka's return to Illinois marks the end of his third tour of duty in Iraq. The 1995 graduate of Zion-Benton High School enlisted in the Marines in 1997, and was trained as an aviation electronics technician at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Florida.

Solomon said Kuzelka's welcome-home contingent would include wife Karen and their four children -- Lucas, Delana, Steph and Liam -- who have been waiting for their father in their Kenosha home.

Following a pizza dinner in Gurnee, Solomon added that the party would also feature "Robert's whole family from my side, and a whole lot of family from Karen's side."

Johnson, another Zion-Benton graduate, is completing his first tour of Iraq after re-enlisting in the Marines. He originally enlisted after high school in 1991 and spent five years in the Corps, completing a Motor Vehicle Operator Course at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"He got out, but he regretted it, so he signed back up last year," Owens said.

Now that he's back on home turf, Johnson would be welcomed back Friday by family members that included brother David, sister-in-law Tina and stepfather Rory Adams.

Ellie