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Marines from the Dark Horse battalion return home to Camp Pendleton

Homecoming Exhausted yet exhilarated, Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, returned Monday night to Camp Pendleton after seven months of combat, death and survival in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of family members holding signs and waving American flags waited on a parade deck for 250 members of the battalion. Known as the Dark Horse battalion, the unit suffered 24 killed in action and more than 175 wounded as it fought to wrest control of the Sangin district in the Helmand province from the Taliban.

In deference to the battalion’s losses and its battlefield successes, Marine brass made sure this homecoming was even more festive than most. Amplified music -- including country-western, hip-hop and big band -- blared from speakers as excited family members waited.

“I just can’t believe it, that today is really here,” said Katie Cascino, 18, whose fiance is Cpl. Marcus Ferry, 25. “The days have just been so long.”

Jennie McFarling was there as an “official hugger” for Marines without family members waiting.

McFarling, 59, of Escondido, said she was there to take her mind off the fact that her son, an Army soldier, was deploying Monday night to Kandahar, Afghanistan. “I’m here to try to forget that and what lies ahead,” she said.

Several young mothers held babies that had been born during their fathers’ deployment. One banner read, “I’ve Waited My Whole Life to Meet You! Welcome, Daddy.”

Many of the family members were from Southern California; others had traveled from across the country. Pam and Johnny Wiley had come from Athens, Ga., to meet their son, Cpl. Adam Wiley, 22.

“It’s been pure hell waiting for him all these months,” Pam Wiley said. “We’ve been so proud, but also so scared.”

Kelsey Robinson, 18, was there to meet her husband, Cpl. Miles Robinson, 22. The couple married a month before he deployed.

“The hardest part,” she said, “has been waking up every morning and not seeing him there.”

A cheer went up as the six buses arrived just before 8 p.m. The Marines had arrived hours earlier at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.

Among those in the crowd were several Marines who had been wounded early in the deployment and sent home for rehabilitation.

Lance Cpl. Mark Meirink, 21, lost his right leg in January when he stepped on a roadside bomb. He now has a prosthetic and is receiving therapy at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

Meirink said he hopes to remain in the Marine Corps and is prepared to return to Afghanistan. “Absolutely,” he said.

Despite losing more personnel in combat than any of the Corps’ other battalions in the 10-year war, the Marines said they felt that their deployment was a success.

“We did our job -- we never doubted that we’d do it,” Lance Cpl. Jerome Davis, 19, said as he held his month-old daughter, Janecia, for the first time.

More Marines from the battalion will return home in the coming days and weeks.

The Dark Horse is being replaced in Sangin by the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, also from Camp Pendleton. Marine brass expect the Taliban to stage a counter-offensive in an effort to reclaim Sangin.


Marines pay a price trying to secure an Afghan hot spot

-- Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Families, friends and fellow Marines await the arrival home of members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (17)

Welcome home and thank you all! <3 You all are the real heroes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

God Bless...

WELCOME HOME! You are our heros! THANK YOU for all you did. We appreciate you. I'm so glad you are back home safely. May God Bless Each and Everyone of you!!!!!!

Great to have you back.

I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that you are finally rotating home. Hell and back, men!

weary? weary marines return home? really?

they may be exhausted, but i doubt a marine would want to be described as weary. proud, honored, battle-tested, heroic...yes. weary...no.

your choice of the word weary paints the marines as victims and wimpy. i suggest you say that to their faces and gauge their reactions.

Welcome home & God bless.

I agree with "Old School." Marines are put through the harshest environments, long work hours, and ALWAYS expected to complete their mission. The word 'weary' was a bad choice. You would be surprised at what Marines are capable of doing in combat or even in training exercises. Welcome home 3/5 Marines! Welcome home.

Semper Fi
Welcome home and thank you for a job well done.

USMC 1966-1969

Welcome home brothers and sisters we are very PROUD of you and your service to our country as a vietnam vet its inportant to us that didnt have this opp. when we came home god bless !!

I'm still waiting for his war to finally be over, isn't that what Obama the liar said he would do? Welcome home men.

Welcome Home Marines from A Father of the Fallen, LCPL Klye Crowley, KIA April 6,2004 Ramadi Iraq 2\4 Marines 2nd Platoon, Ambushed Eleven Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman, perished on this Day, 7 years seem like only yesterday for me,my Heart is deeply broken for your wounded and your loss of each one who have sacrificed there lives for everthing that they believe in ,My Faith and prayers for all to return home safe to there loved ones waiting home, is all that I have to hold on to, Faith in the Day when we will be be United in the Kingdom of Heaven, God Bless All and keep you Safe, Always Semper Fi

Welcome home 3/5 ! Job well done and a big thank you! My son is in 1/5 and arrived in Sangin recently. I know what your loved ones went through when you were away! God bless you for all you have done for us!

Welcome home Darkhorse Marines! We have been praying for your return and it's finally here!

Welcome back ! Thank you for your efforts. we appreciate all you do. God bless. enjoy your families. from an 86 yr. old ( former) marine and his proud wife.

Welcome Home Brothers (Kilo 3/5 1994 to 1997)


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