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*Welcome home, troops

About 227 Marines and sailors returned to Twentynine Palms Wednesday afternoon after a seven-month deployment in Iraq's strife-torn Al Anbar Province.


Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
September 28, 2006

Family and friends traveled from near and far to welcome the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion back to the United States.

Sally Deykerhoff from Pacific Grove and Margaret Lott of Traverse City, Mich., talked as they waited for their sons.

They met months ago online at MarineParents.com, a Web site that helps parents spread information about their Marines overseas and acts as a support network.

"It gets us through our son's deployment," said Deykerhoff's husband, Peter.

Though they had been waiting for seven months for the moment, the last hours were full of emotion for many.

"It's like my wedding day," said Jennifer Nakonieczny as she waited with her two children, Emily and Mikey.

When the crowd caught sight of the motorcycle motorcade that preceded the buses of Marines they cheered, grabbed their signs, balloons and cameras and lined up to meet the buses.

Lance Cpl. Ross Yoder said it was difficult to explain his feelings about returning home.

"It's the best feeling in the world, really," he said. "I've never felt this good before."

"It was a rough deployment," said Lance Cpl. Jonathon Almeida. "We finished strong for them."

Seven Marines and one sailor in this battalion were killed in action during this deployment.

The 3rd LAR worked to discover intelligence, defend against insurgency and support Iraqis.

Now that they are safely back, the Marines and sailors of the battalion have 72 hours off and then the option to take leave for up to three weeks before returning to training.