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Marines return from Afghanistan amid families' tears of joy

August 22, 2012 |  5:24 pm

Welcome home
It was an afternoon of banners, flags and then tears of happiness Wednesday as 300 members of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing returned home after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

It was the finale of a scenario repeated countless times in San Diego County in the 11 years since the U.S. began what turned into a two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan: the nervous departure of troops and then, months later, their ecstatic return.

For the Marines and sailors who returned to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, many of whom have made multiple warzone deployments, this could be their last such mission as the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan continues apace.

The signs held by family members told the story. Like the banner that awaited Cpl. Adrian Lerma of Oxnard that had pictures of his children, Tita, born in March, and Riyah, who is 3.

Or the smaller banner held by Cathy and Nick Halisky to grab the attention of their daughter, Navy corpsman Meghan Halisky. The banner had pictures of their daughter's two dogs left with the Haliskys while she deployed.

The banner held by the family of Sgt. Jerry Marzan said, "We're so proud of our brave hero." It was the second deployment for the father of two.

"This deployment was really rough," Alexis Marzan said as she awaited her husband's return. "You just take it one day at a time."

As the big plane rolled into position near the terminal and portable steps were put into position, the wait seemed agonizing.

"I can't believe it's real," said Alexis Marzan, with tears in her eyes and her voice breaking. "It won't seem real until I have his arms around me, at last."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: A banner awaiting Cpl. Adrian Lerma. Credit: Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times