Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN: Official Huggers greet Marines; "All my boys."

June 3, 2008 |  2:46 pm


The Official Huggers had a busy day Tuesday as Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing returned to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

The group, mostly mothers with sons and daughters in the Marine Corps, is determined that no Marine or sailor will return from Iraq, Afghanistan or a Western Pacific deployment without someone to greet them.

On Tuesday, it was Marines from Fighter Attack Squadron 232, an F/A-18 squadron.

For 10 of the last 14 months, the squadron has been deployed either in the Persian Gulf or aboard the carrier Nimitz off Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Guam. That none of the Official Huggers had a son or daughter in the squadron was unimportant.

"We're here for the guys who don't have families," said Joyce Orrell of Valley Center, whose son is undergoing training in Texas. "We don't ever want it to be like it was in Vietnam when guys came home and nobody was here.'

Brooke Pilkington of Colorado has two sons stationed at Twentynine Palms; Teresa Rush, who lives in Indiana, has a son in Fallouja. "When you hug these guys, it's like hugging your own son," she said.

Orrell agreed. "These are all my boys," she said.

— Tony Perry, in San Diego

Photo: From left, Joyce Orrell, Teresa Rush, and Brooke Pilkington. Credit: Tony Perry/Los Angeles Times