MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Families and friends of more than 200 Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and its attachments waited here anxiously, Oct. 26, to welcome home their heroes who deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the 7-month tour, Marines conducted numerous operations to include combat logistics patrols, vehicle recovery missions, resupply missions and training the Afghan National Army.
For the first time since its opening the new 7th Engineer Support Battalion barracks were packed. Loved ones waited patiently for the arrival of the troops, including the family of Staff Sgt. Derick Kneeland, motor transport operator, CLB-7, 1st MLG. They couldn’t wait for him to meet his 3-month-old son for the first time.
“I’m more excited for him to see our son than for myself,” said Kneeland’s wife, Crystal, from Dallas. “He has already missed so much, I doubt that he would want to do anything else but be with Ethan.”
Besides his wife, Kneeland’s mother and grandmother drove for 12 hours from Utah to share this moment. His brother Michael also flew in from Texas to welcome him home.
“It’s going to be great,” said Teresa, Kneeland’s grandmother. “We’ve been praying for his safe return. Now he can finally hold his son and see him face to face.”
As the buses pulled up, the loved ones rose to their feet and Crystal prepared to find her husband in the sea of camouflage.
The moment the bus opened its door, Kneeland, from Dallas, immediately reunited with his family, rushing over to hold his baby boy in his arms. He was lost in his son’s eyes, as if nothing else mattered and it was just him and his son in the entire world.
Kneeland was so excited to see his son that he couldn’t think of anything else he wanted to do at that moment but be with Ethan. After a while, he finally calmed down and decided the first thing he would do.
“I want some steak,” said Kneeland, who deployed as part of the Embedded Partnering Team to train the Afghan National Army. “I don’t care where as long as I can have some. But for now, I just want to go home with my family.”
Kneeland might have missed the birth of his first son, but he wasn’t the only one who was longing to see their kids. Sgt. Jerry Pickron, motor transport operator, CLB-7, 1st MLG, was also thrilled to see his 18-month-old daughter after spending the past seven months in Afghanistan.
“I left to go on deployment three days before her first birthday. She’s so big now and I can’t believe I’ve missed so much already,” said Pickron, from Vidor, Texas. “I just want to play with my daughter. That’s all I can think of right now.”
Being separated from their loved ones during deployment tours has always been one of the most difficult aspects of deployment, but for some it has became a part of their everyday lives.
“It was harder this time around with him missing the birth of our first child,” Crystal said. “But the separation gets easier as you get used to it through our journey together. You begin to accept the fact that it’s a part of their career. I’m just glad that it’s over and he got home safely to us.”