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Deployments can affect even the littlest patriots

About 1,000 2/2 Marines going to Iraq

As a light rain fell on a Camp Lejeune parking lot Wednesday afternoon, Lance Cpl. Jacob Ballard stood under a striped canopy, holding a 15-month-old girl in a camouflage dress with pale pink trim.


April 23, 2008 - 11:30PM

Last time Ballard deployed, Chastity was only a month old. Now, the towheaded toddler has grown into full-fledged daddy's girl.

"When he doesn't come home tonight, she's going to be standing at the door saying ‘Da Da,'" said Anne Ballard, Jacob's wife and Chastity's mother. "She's going to be upset."

Ballard was one of about 300 Marines who left Camp Lejeune on Wednesday, bound for a seven-month deployment in western Anbar province with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

Leaving behind his daughter - whose name is tattooed in Old English letters on his forearm - and his wife, who is pregnant with a son, is not easy, Jacob Ballard said. But it is a little easier knowing his wife can handle anything that comes her way, he said.

"I'm ready to go, do the mission, come back and see my son for the first time," Ballard said.

Like Ballard, Sgt. Glenn McCaulley knows the difficulty of leaving family behind. This is the third deployment for the father of two.

"It gets harder, with having kids," he said.

Being away so long is difficult when they are young, he said, because they change and grow so much in seven months. And getting phone calls about a daughter who won't stop saying, "I miss Daddy," is not easy, he said.

So he looks forward to seeing her come tearing across the parking lot when he returns, he said, as well as being able to make a difference in the lives of Iraqi children.

"The deployments, to me, it's worth it, for the simple fact that I get to bring a piece of freedom that people over there haven't been able to experience - that we take for granted every single day - and bring it to their lives," McCaulley said.

The group Wednesday was the last large group of the roughly 1,000 Marines from 2/2 headed to Iraq. They'll focus mainly on counterinsurgency operations during the deployment, said Maj. Timothy Brady, the unit's operations officer.

This is the third time to Iraq for Brady, and though the combat veterans bring with them lessons learned on previous tours, each time is different, he said.

"The government is changing, the Iraqi security forces are changing and the people of Iraq are changing," he said.

Sgt. Gabriel Faiivae said he was excited for what will be his third deployment with 2/2.

"I mean, I've been through this before," he said. "I'm excited for everyone to get out, actually get out there and do something to make the world better."

Though some of the new Marines were nervous, he said, "we're ready to go."

This is the first deployment for Pfc. Ryan Panfil, who said Wednesday he was both excited and nervous.

"A little bit of both worlds," he said.

The unit returned in July from its last deployment to Iraq, and Panfil said he appreciated the experience the combat veterans bring.

"You've got your leadership; they've been over there," he said. "They know what they're teaching us."

As the men got ready to board the bus, Brady said morale was high.

"We're proud to be serving our country, proud to be a member of 2/2 and serving our nation," he said.