Home from Fallujah
February 19,2007

Just 10 hours after the birth of his daughter, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Kaszubinski was sent off to fight for freedom in Iraq.

When he returned with about 300 other Marines and sailors to Camp Lejeune Sunday with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, he knew exactly where to go to see little Catie and Jack, 2.

A sign that read "hey new dads, your babies are waiting over here" greeted the Marines and sailors with new bundles of joy.

"She's a lot bigger," Kaszubinski said. "I got to see them grow up with pictures, and now it's just good to finally hold them again."

Seeing their new sons and daughters for the first time is just one of the perks of being home after seven months in Iraq. As the buses pulled up, the Marines were greeted with cheers and welcome home signs.

Dry eyes were hard to find as family members cried tears of joy over the safe return of their loved ones.

"I'm going to make him hold me for a long time," said Kayleigh Imbody who waited for her father, Navy corpsman Joel Imbody, to arrive back. "It makes me feel happy, and it makes me feel proud of him that he's helping everybody in the country."

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Bering saw his 3-month-old daughter Allyson for the first time Sunday and was reunited with his 1 -year-old daughter Katie.

"It's great," he said. "I've seen pictures, but it does no justice to actually be able to hold them."

A total of 1,200 Marines and sailors from 2/8 are returning. More are expected to arrive Tuesday and Wednesday.

The primary mission of 2/8 was to help the Iraqi security forces defeat insurgents and enhance the political and economic environment of the Al Anbar province.

"Our mission was to basically backstop and become a windbreak for the Iraqi army in the city of Fallujah," said executive officer Maj. Sean Riordan. "It was a dangerous kind of a complex environment where you had urban, suburban and rural terrain."

Riordan said eight of the unit's members died and another 40 were seriously injured.

While her husband was fighting to protect America, Kaszubinski's wife Nicole was busy traveling to keep her spirits up.

"It made the time go by faster to have the holidays with the family instead of just sitting at home," she said.

Bering's wife Jayme has a message of hope for all the Marines and sailors still fighting in Iraq and for all the family members left behind.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

Contact Joe Miller at jmiller@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.