Cherry Point welcomes home Marines
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October 01, 2009 1:00 AM

Welcome banners lined the air field fence at Cherry Point Wednesday as 242 Marines were welcomed home from a six month deployment in Iraq.

The personnel were part of an advance party from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 and from Marine Air Support Squadron 1.

Four buses carrying the Marines arrived shortly after 1 p.m. to cheering family members many holding welcome home banners over their heads and waiving American flags.

Lillie Maness, 8, of Havelock, held a sign with the help of her grandmother Jean Sutphen, of Raleigh. They were welcoming home Lillie’s father, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Maness, of Havelock.

Socorro Robles, of Havelock, helped daughters Angie Robles, 2, and Isabel Robles, 8, hold a sign for father, Sgt. Ricardo Robles, of Havelock.

Sara-Beth Harris, of Newport, watched as daughter Avery, 7, watched her father, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Harris read a special note to her returning dad.

“It’s good to be back,” said Cpl. Vincent Ivarone after returning home to see wife Lyndi Ivarone and hold infant son Michael.

“It’s my first deployment. Married with a child. It’s pretty hard to be away from them,” Ivarone said.

Lance Cpl. Esteban Diaz, a native of Columbia, was greeted by his parents, Javier Liscano and Maria Rojas, of Miami, along with returning Marine Cpl. Kevin Reyes.

Diaz shared a handshake from Lance Cpl. Antolin Zapata who was in the same fire and rescue unit with him in Iraq. “We kind of grew close. I’m happy to be home,” Diaz said.

U.S. Navy HM3 Patrick Gravel, of Portsmouth, Va., was greeted by his wife Crystal, mother-in-law Chekita Young and his enthusiastic son Konner Gravel, 4.

“Daddy! I got your stuff. I’m really happy,” the young boy said as he struggled to carry his dad’s medical kit. “It’s really heavy. I’m carrying it. It’s really, really heavy.”

“This is a long time in coming,” Gravel said. “It’s my third deployment. I’m ready to be done.”

Returning Lance Cpl. Derik Parsons got a big hug from Lance Cpl. Valerie Hennig, with whom he had befriended at Cherry Point.

“He was on deployment. It’s just like he’s my brother,” Hennig said.

Sgt. Richard Martin stood waiting for a ride as his son Conner, 4, balanced on the Marine’s sea bag.

Martin said it was tough waiting to get back home.

“It seemed like it would never come. You wait and wait and wait. And finally it comes,” Martin said. “It’s kind of hard to explain.”