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02-23-08, 11:40 AM #1
Marine deployment: 'A very trying day'
Marine deployment: 'A very trying day'
Silver Eagles, Stingers head to Iraq
Published Sat, Feb 23, 2008 12:00 AM
By DAN HILLIARD
Staff Sgt. Tim Dorrill packed something special when he left Friday with 250 of his fellow Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Marines and sailors for Al Asad Airfield in Iraq -- a little teddy bear his daughters bought him for the trip.
"You know what the sad thing is?" he said as he hugged Tiffany, 10, and Morgan, 14, goodbye. "I'll probably end up sleeping with it."
None of the 200 Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, the Silver Eagles, or the 50 Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31,the Stingers, began to cry until they were lined up by rank and marched onto a waiting passenger jet.
While they waited to board in a hanger at the air station, the Marines and their families laughed, received care packages from United Service Organizations volunteers and talked about the adjustments the eight-month deployment will require.
For Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Hiestand and his wife, Dena, coping with Hiestand's first combat deployment will be a matter of keeping busy.
Hiestand is a Stingers aviation supply tech who's been in the Corps for more than 17 years.
"I guess I'll just have to change my schedule a bit," Dena Hiestand said about shuttling their 8-year-old son, Jeffrey Jr., to school. "With Jeffrey Jr., I'm going to have to do everything. And I'm going to have to be nice to the dog, too."
The Hiestands bought matching laptops to keep in touch during the deployment, Jeffrey Hiestand said.
"This will be our first long separation, but the Internet's there," he said. "I think that's one of the benefits of technology nowadays. The world just keeps getting smaller and smaller."
Katie Johnson, wife of Stingers Staff Sgt. Marshall Johnson, will spend the deployment with family in Hawaii, he said.
"She's the lucky one. She's spoiled," Johnson said while checking his pack. "She left earlier today. That way my guys wouldn't see me crying. I know it's going to be boring much of the time, but we hope to work hard and have a good time doing it. I'd rather work 20 hours a day over there than be bored. It makes the time go faster."
John Craig, also known as Tux the Clown, circulated through the crowd making balloon palm trees and puppies to keep the troops' children smiling.
"I've been doing this for two years now, and I do it on the understanding that if I get to send them off, then I get to welcome them home," he said. "A commander here once told me it's not good for the Marines to see their kids crying when they get on the plane, so I make balloons, do magic and keep them occupied while their parents hop on."
United Services Organizations volunteer Bill Higgins passed out soda and care packages to the Marines and their families as they milled about the hanger.
A 33-year Navy veteran, Higgins said he knows all too well how it feels to press your cheek against a loved one, knowing you won't have another opportunity to do so for months.
"I just appreciate what they're doing. I went through the Vietnam business, when there wasn't a lot of appreciation given to the troops," he said. "I think it's something that needs to be done."
Debbie Gill,mother of Silver Eagle Lance Cpl. Andrew Sokol, drove all the way from Crofton, Md., to see her son begin his 12-hour flight to Iraq.
Her older son was in the Navy, so she's been through this before, she said through tears.
"It's a very trying day," Gill said. "I wouldn't say it gets easier, but you get hardened to it. I'm very proud of my boys and what they have done for themselves. A mother couldn't be prouder of her sons."
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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