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thedrifter
03-19-08, 07:19 AM
Marines return home safe, no casualties reported as Iraq War's five year mark reached

By Colin Atagi
The Desert Sun

Staff Sgt. James Petty returned to the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms from Iraq Tuesday for the second time since the war in the Middle East began five years ago.

His first deployment was in March 2003 when the war began, and Petty noticed a significant difference in the nation’s environment during his second tour of duty, which ended a day before the war’s fifth anniversary.

He spent his first trip in a hostile environment, but he found more time to peacefully interact with the Iraqi citizens his second time around.

“The first time over there, everything was fast and chaotic,” he said. “It wasn’t until this time I got to know the good people that are there.”

And if he had to do it all over again, he would — “in a heart beat,” said the 27-year-old from Exeter, Calif.

As friends and family members waited for members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment to come home Tuesday, they and combat center officials expressed admiration for the Marines’ efforts.

Since the war began, 116 Marines and sailors from Twentynine Palms have been killed while serving overseas.

Tuesday’s homecoming was especially significant because there were no casualties — a sign of the changes being made in Al Anbar Province, where American troops are trying to teach citizens to enforce their own laws, Gunnery Sgt. Chris W. Cox said.

“A lot fewer people are dying than there were five years ago,” he said.

Ellie