Celebration for Marines Coming Home - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/5/03

Celebration for Marines Coming Home

For the last few months, Lubbock Marines have been coming home for several months. More than 100 local men and women were stationed in Kuwait and Iraq fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now that the majority are home, local officials and community leaders gathered Sunday for a welcome home celebration.

City officials recognized local marines one by one Sunday at a welcome home appreciation party.

"It's definitely a nice gesture from the city to come out here and tell us thank you. Everyone likes to hear a thank you and I know the marines that were over there sweating in 130 degree weather fighting a war, it's going to be something they are going to remember," said Captain Kraig Smith.

Something else they remember is the bond and the brotherhood they've formed with each other.

"(Sunday) is special because a lot of the marines at the unit have come home and this is the first time seeing everybody at once, and it's memorable because we built a lot of relationships out there that will stay with you for a long time," said L.Cpl David Vargas.

"They are brothers to me now. There's nothing in the world that I wouldn't do for them," said L.Cpl Mike Huey.

And they all agree, the hardest part was being apart from their families. This group had to leave behind dozens of children and babies.

"Definitely being away from my family. That was very hard. It took a lot, and I'm glad to be home," said L.Cpl Vance McDonald.

"The families. Missing the family and the distance. Letters took so long to get there and to get home," said Vargas.

Local representatives and Congressman Randy Neugebauer came to personally thank the men and women for their hard work.

"Also to let them know my commitment to finish the mission that they started and they did such a good job doing," said Congressman Randy Neugebauer.

These days when many of these soldiers get together they reminisce on the fun times they had to pass the time while away, but also remembering the images they'll never forget.

"It's crazy, you have people that would come out when we're driving down long strips of highway and you see people running down the highway with no shoes on and it's 115 degrees outside but some how they have a block of ice on their shoulder and they are trying to sell it to you. I don't know, it's almost surreal. It's heartbreaking, and for us, we're over there trying to help them out and you don't know who's the enemy, who's for you or against you. Just a lot of emotions," said L.Cpl Carlos Alvarez.

More than 300 people gathered for Sunday's picnic lunch and celebration.

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