'Everything's changed over there'
1/2 returns from Iraq
February 17, 2009 - 6:56 PM

When Cpl. Jacob Elliott left for Iraq, his son was 7 months old.

Tuesday, Elliott returned home to a 14-month-old boy who is walking, talking and eating real food.

"It's weird to see him walking and talking," Elliott said, smiling as he held on to Connor.

Elliott was one of about 500 Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment who returned home Tuesday after a seven-month deployment to Iraq. It was his second deployment.

Elliott's wife, Sarah Elliott, said this deployment was a little easier than the first - when she was pregnant with Connor. Still, she said, it is difficult to never have a break.

"I can't just run to the gas station," she said, or get help fixing dinner.

Jacob Elliott said the deployment itself went well, "a lot better environment" than his previous tour.

"Everything's changed over there," he said. "It was a real significant change from last time."

Maj. Gordon Miller, executive officer of 1/2, said the deployment went extremely well and there were no combat casualties.

"The last seven months were great," he said. "This was my sixth deployment, and every time it gets better and better, bringing families home."

The unit started out in Habbaniyah, and after stabilizing the area, moved to Rawah, which is also in the Anbar province. After stabilizing that area, they moved to Ninewa province, north of Anbar province, where they helped with elections, Miller said.

"The country's doing amazing things over there," he said. "Everyone's taking control of their country ... taking charge for themselves and what they want their country to be."

Seaman Michael Skrypchyk, who is set to deploy in a few weeks with 2nd Supply Battalion, came to the deployment to welcome back his friend, a fellow corpsman. The pair went to boot camp and corpsman school together, and both young men are Russian.

"Time flew by really fast," Skrypchyk said. "It seems like he was just getting on the bus ... now he's coming home."

Skrypchyk said he was able to talk to his friend often during the course of his first deployment, and is ready to ship off for the first time himself.

"I'm excited, ready to go" he said. "That's why we're here, we're here for the Marines."

As he looked for his sea bag in the grass outside the barracks, Lance Cpl. Andrew Hamm said he was happy to be back from his first deployment. It was difficult to be away from family and friends, he said.

Plus, Hamm said, in Iraq "you have to watch what you say, watch what you do."

"It's not just normal life," he said.

Contact interactive content editor and military reporter Jennifer Hlad at jhlad@freedomenc.com or 910-219-8467.