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A morning of tears and goodbyes as Camp Pendleton Marines ship out for Afghanistan

It’s 2 a.m. and several hundred Marines are assembling their sea bags, weapons and other gear on the parade deck. Small groups of families are huddled together; many a Marine and his wife are sharing a last embrace.

And 3-year-old Landon Molumby has figured out what’s happening: his father, Staff Sgt. Loren Molumby, a combat photographer, is going away.

The boy buries his head in his father’s shoulder. Tears of confusion and exhaustion stream down his face.

So it was early Monday as 250 Marines and sailors from Regimental Combat Team One gathered for the bus ride to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and then the flight to Afghanistan. Some will be in Afghanistan for seven months, others for a year. Nearly all have deployed to Iraq.

The Marines have filled out their wills and their powers-of-attorney. Spouses have been briefed and given lists of phone numbers to call when the unexpected occurs: the broken refrigerator, the money problem, the in-law problem, the child-care problem, or just the loneliness and fear that comes from having a loved one in the most dangerous spot, Helmand province, of an already dangerous country.

The secret to bearing the burden of the stay-behind spouse?

“Stay strong, stay positive,” said Diana Molumby, 27, the staff sergeant’s wife. “Try to believe that they’re all going to come back OK.”

The talk from the White House is that the U.S. will begin to remove its troops from Afghanistan next July. But the commandant of the Marine Corps has said that Marines almost assuredly will not be in the first groups to return home.

In a recent whirlwind trip to southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, Gen. James Conway predicted that Marines would be there until 2014 or 2015. Of the 20,000 Marines and sailors now in Helmand province, about 10,000 are from Camp Pendleton, spread out in several large bases and dozens of tiny outposts.

Camille Fisher was on base to say goodbye to her brother, Staff Sgt. Angelo Robinson, 34.

“You just have to stay strong, never lose faith,” she said. “They’re already heroes, just pray that they stay safe.”

A significant number of the Marines are volunteers.

“I’ve been training to go to war for four years,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Schilling, 23. “It’s time I get over there, rather than sitting stateside.”

Schilling’s wife, Brandy, 24, and their sons, Richard, 5; and Gabriel, 2, will spend the deployment with her parents in Dayton, Ohio. He spent 2006 in Israel on a training mission, so Brandy has acquired coping skills.

"Stay busy,” she said.

Navy Cmdr. David Glassmire, a Catholic chaplain, said he is confident that the troops are ready. For the families, particularly the first-timers, that’s a different story, he said.

“The Marines are pumped up,” Glassmire said. “They know this is their time to make history. For some of the families, the meltdown begins tonight.”

Depending on where the Marines are assigned, they will be able to communicate with their families via e-mail and, in some cases, video phones. Still, there are limits to the preparation.

“I don’t think you’re ever really ready to send your husband to war,” said Diana Molumby.

-- Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Lance Cpl. Jonathan Schilling and wife Brandy bid farewell at Camp Pendleton as Marines deploy to Afghanistan. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (12)


May God be with these brave warriors! They are the true heroes!

God bless these brave Marines....thanks to you all for your service and sacrafice.

Be safe and God speed....

Go with God Marines and come home safe. San Clemente will be waiting for you with open arms and hearts. You are always on our minds! Semper Fi

And to those of you who think we shouldn't be fighting terrorism and sending our troops to foreign shores, watch the NatGeo 9/11 programming. Never forget!

Master Sargeant Daniel Fedder will not be coming home under his own power. He is from Camp Pendleton and lost his life on Saturday, fighting terrorism so we can stay free. Rest in Peace Marine

May the soldiers return home safe to their families yet I question the reason for their presence in Afghanistan. Much like Iraq, our presence has minimal value.

The US needs to pull all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan NOW.

RIP Master Sargeant Daniel Fedder. Semper Fi.

We cannot win in Afghanistan. This is an exercise in nation building now, and the nation we need to be rebuilding and focusing on is the USA. Bin Laden has long since fled to Pakistan and may already be dead at this point. Afghanistan is completely in the hands of warlords, heroin traffickers, and the Taliban (and those groups are not mutually exclusive). It is not realistic to expect a functioning democracy with pro-western sentiments to spring from the soil of Afghanistan; it's a fantasy. If our troops cannot achieve their objective, as in, there's no hope of it happening, then we should not be sending them, because we are only sending them to their deaths.

End the Afghan war, now.

Sep.11,2001 changed it all. My heart is broken that my Marine son is deployed, but he's one of the many who has to do the job to protect us. Let us not be fooled again, the terrorists (radical Muslims) have planned their attacks for years, and more so now that they have started the chaos, they do not sleep- they are always on the lookout for the opportunity to KILL us...so, we should always be aware and watching and ready. We can help our Armed Forces by supporting them. We need them more than they need us.
We will be waiting for your safe return. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. God bless our troops and God bless America!


" Those who have shed blood with me shall FOREVER be my BROTHERS"
God bless your families and the Marine Corps.

Cpl. Garcia A. USMC


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