MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (May 21, 2007)– -- After nine long months, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, returned from Ramadi, Iraq, May 19, where the unit was involved in counterinsurgency operations while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The mission was successful,” said Maj. Daniel R. Zappa, executive officer, 1st Bn., 6th Marines. “We neutralized the enemy and reduced attacks by 90 percent.”
Word of the mission’s success spread quickly to family members. Through phone calls, family members were informed of the job the battalion was doing.
“My son actually called me and talked about a mission,” said Gary Carnevale, father of Seaman Apprentice Gary Carnevale Jr., a hospital corpsman with the battalion. “I was surprised; he had never talked about a mission before. He told me they were handing out soccer balls to kids in areas people had been afraid to walk in before.”
The battalion was originally scheduled for a nine month deployment. However, the battalion was extended from seven months to nine months.
“We wanted a great celebration, because our guys were extended,” said Sue Jurney, the Key Volunteer Advisor for 1st Bn., 6th Marines. “This is the day we’ve waited for a long time.”
The homecoming party was a coordinated effort between the battalion and the Key Volunteers. Both sides took very active roles in planning the event.
“The celebration was planned a few weeks in advance,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Martin, Family Readiness staff noncommissioned officer for 1st Bn., 6th Marines. “An event like this takes a lot of coordination.”
The homecoming drew a massive crowd. Family members came from all over the country to see their Marines and sailors’ return.
“We drove from Plant City, Fla.,” said John Burtz, stepfather of Cpl. Cory Suttle. “We came in Thursday, because we thought he was coming in. We later found out he had been transferred and would be back Saturday. So we stayed about an hour away.”
“This time we aren’t leaving until we get him,” said Susan Burtz, Suttle’s mother.
With blasting music and the scent of popcorn and hotdogs in the air, the homecoming had the look of a regular party. The only difference was the signs that hung from the barracks. Most of the signs welcomed home Marines and sailors, while one sign honored fallen service members.
“I can’t even look at that thing without falling apart,” said Carnevale. “They were all great guys. We need to win this war for them.”