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Old 05-20-2003, 05:29 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool Marines start returning, prepare to readjust

Marines start returning, prepare to readjust

By Bruce Haring
Associated Press

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. ? After an emotional homecoming, the first wave of Marines to return to this desert base from combat missions in Iraq now face the difficult challenge of readjusting to life stateside.
A group of 69 troops were greeted by tears and embraces from some 200 relatives and friends Saturday night after a 40-hour trek from the Middle East. The soldiers, most of them deployed since January, were the first of 1,500 Marines expected to return to Twentynine Palms this week.

Between 5,000-6,000 Marines were sent to Iraq from this 50-year-old military base that is home to some 20,000 Marines and their families. The entire deployment will gradually return by August, officials said. Eight Marines from the base were killed in combat.

About 300 other Marines were welcomed home Saturday by relatives and friends at Camp Pendleton Marine Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, both in San Diego County.

?The next few days, guys will be lost and overwhelmed. They?ve seen combat and they?re changed,? said Kim Greeley, a member of the Key Volunteer Group that serves as a liaison between families and deployed personnel.

?Their wives have been single parents since they?ve left. It?s time for everyone to readjust and ease back into life,? Greeley said.

The families of the returning Marines were told that readjustment after combat will be a gradual process. Families should allow the Marines to unwind at their own pace, with no special dinners or other taxing events, Greeley said.

On Sunday, wounded Marine Sgt. Aaron Wintterle Jr., deployed in January from Twentynine Palms, was honored with a plaque for service to his country by the Costa Mesa Fire Department. Wintterle was shot in the face by an Iraqi suicide bomber at a Baghdad intersection.

The Marine, who had several teeth shot out, his tongue torn open and the upper palate of his mouth burned by bullet fragments, also received a Purple Heart this week. ?It?s a humbling award. It?s not really an honor to be wounded but it?s an honor that they would give it to me for defending my country,? Wintterle said. He now faces a year of reconstructive surgery.

The 69 Marines arrived at Twentynine Palms after flying from Kuwait to Germany, and then on to Delaware before landing at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County. From there the soldiers took a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to this military base that has welcomed returned Marines since the Korean War.

?You don?t know how good you got it until you roll through Riverside,? said Jeremy Shorten, 23, a logistics specialist who embraced his wife, Sheri, 27, as he stepped off the bus.

Two Marines returned to greet their newborn babies for the first time.

Supply specialist Mike Kaniuk, 25, survived a firefight after the tank in which he was riding struck a mine while entering Baghdad. He said he was looking forward to ?eating American food, seeing American people, being back in America.?

This first wave of Marines to return to Twentynine Palms will be responsible for setting up phones and utilities and getting supplies out of storage. But some won?t have too long to relax. A battalion will be sent to Okinawa in about eight weeks for a six-month stint, part of the regular rotation from the military base, officials said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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