Met with cheers, tears
U.S. Marine reservists welcomed home from Iraq by family, friends

Drew Streip,
Monday, February 23, 2009

U.S. Marine reservists with the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, Delta Company, arrived home from Iraq on a blustery Sunday to cheers and tears from parents, spouses and friends stationed at the reserve center.

After landing at McGhee Tyson Airport, the battalion's two buses pulled into the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center on Alcoa Highway around 11 a.m. The cheers didn't stop until every Marine had found his family.

Two lucky Marines came home to bigger families than they left.

Cpl. Brian Mooneyham returned from his second deployment to meet his 1-month-old daughter, Ryleigh, for the first time. His wife, Whitney, had to have an emergency C-section, but Brian experienced the birth in a unique way.

"He got to call while I was on the delivery table," his wife said. "The nurses said it was the first time anyone had their stomach cut open while talking on the phone."

She said she recently used a Webcam to show her husband their new baby.

Following one more delay as the men checked their weapons into the armory, Mooneyham finally fed his daughter from a bottle under a large sign reading "Move it or lose it - today I get to meet my daddy for the first time!"

"I don't know too many words to describe it," Mooneyham said. "It's one of the best feelings you can have."

Lance Cpl. Corey Sloan had a similar homecoming. He held his 14-week-old son, Derrick, born in November, as cameras flashed in the crowded auditorium.

"It's wonderful," Sloan said. "I've waited awhile for it."

Sloan's wife, Glenda, said her husband also called during the delivery but that she was "a little unfocused on talking to him."

She sent her husband pictures of Derrick using MySpace, she said.

The arrival was a double celebration for the family of Lance Cpl. Lonnie King. Sunday was King's 32nd birthday, and he gave a shy smile when people started singing "Happy Birthday."

"It's great to be home, period," King said, with his daughter Sarah on his lap, and his other daughter Hannah clinging to his arm.

The unit was expecting to get home next week, he said.

The 49 members were returning from a seven-month deployment to the Anbar province of Iraq, according to 1st Sgt. Charles Wright. Their missions included minesweeping, building bunkers, finding weapons caches and demolitions, Wright said.

Deanna Hartman, the mother of 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Daniel Colwell, said her son joined the Marines after his friend in the Army was killed in Iraq. She said she is "so proud of him" but will be glad when her son turns in his rifle.

"I thank God these are happy tears and and not sad tears," she said.

Drew Streip may be reached at 865-342-6432.