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Troops welcomed home after Iraq combat stint

Date Posted: 2005-04-07

Nearly 2,000 Okinawa marines returned home from Iraq deployment last weekend aboard three Navy amphibious vessels.

Rain didnít dampen enthusiasm of hundreds of family and well wishers as the USS Harpers Ferry, USS Essex and USS Juneau disgourged the 1,700 Marines back from their seven-month tour in Iraq. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Force was responsible for patrolling a large chunk of Iraqís Al Anbar Province, an area roughly 33,000 square miles.

The advance parties had arrived several weeks earlier to get everything at Camps Hansen and Schwab ready for the troops. Military units and support activities including Marine Corps Community Services had the welcome mat out, and offered a weekend a special events to celebrate.

While some troops were helicoptered direct to their bases, the bulk of the sailors and marines were greeted at White Beach. Once down the pier, it was into the arms of family and friends, many seeing new children for the very first time.

The MEU was augmented by other units during itís Iraq deployment. Fifty of the unitís marines were killed during the seven months, and another 221 injured. In addition to the MEU marines, several others attached from a Hawaii aviation unit were killed when their helicopter crashed.

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