Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Pendleton unit may be home early
Gen. David Petraeus says he told president drawdown should start this month. Also, O.C. Congress members question Petraeus
The Orange County Register

Annette King recently recorded her 2-year-old son Tyler saying the alphabet for the first time and e-mailed it to her husband in Iraq.

Marine Sgt. Daron King may hear the sweet sounds in person. He is with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is now expected to leave Iraq about two months ahead of its scheduled departure in November.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Monday that he has recommended to President Bush that the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq begin this month with the departure of the Camp Pendleton-based Marine unit.

The unit, comprising about 2,100 Marines and sailors, has been involved with counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq's Anbar Province.

“I can tell you that these are lethal, flexible units and able to adjust to changing needs,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, spokesman for the first 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, under whose umbrella the unit falls. “Over the last several years we've seen the MEUs change course midstream.”

Reached by telephone Monday at Camp Pendleton, where the King family lives in base housing, Annette King was ecstatic to learn of Petraeus' recommendation.

“I'd be very happy. I am kind of stunned,” she said. “It's been rough.”

The couple's oldest child, DeShaun, 7, is in counseling because the separation from his father has been hard for him, his mother said. Their daughter, Alaynnah, 3, also has nightmares about her father getting hurt, Annette King said.

The girl's been waking up saying, ”My daddy, my daddy. No,” King said. “She would wake up screaming.” Alaynnah's nightmares began shortly after her father left for Iraq for a second time in April.

“And the baby, in the beginning, if he heard anybody else's garage door open, he would go running saying, ‘My daddy, my daddy,'” she said. He doesn't anymore. Tyler has gotten used to his father not being home, King said.

Sgt. King, 33, had been in the Marines for about six years before leaving in 1998, his wife said. He rejoined after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“He felt like he owed it to his country, that he needed to be in,” Annette King said.

“I wish that (war) was not there. I hate to see so many people die. I can't say I understand the war, because I don't,” she said. “But I support my husband and I stand by my husband no matter what.”

Cathy Schooner, vice president of the Indiana-based nonprofit Marines Parents United, said she personally does not favor a drawdown of American forces in Iraq.

“It's drug on and we just need to keep it up and just get the job done,” she said.

Her son Corey, a Marine sergeant, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq and finished his four years of service.

“I've got friends of mine and their kids are over there and it scares me to death,” Schooner said. “It's very easy to say that, ‘pull out and save lives' … but then again they have a job to do. I think that if we pull out, it's going to be incomplete.”

Since his deployment, Sgt. King has missed both of his sons' birthdays, Tyler's second and DeShaun's seventh. He also missed the couple's third wedding anniversary. The Kings have been together for a decade.

“I just want him home, you know, it's been a long, hard time,” said Annette King, 32, a homemaker.
The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contact the writer: 949-465-5424 or vjolly@ocregister.com