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Marines return to Twentynine Palms after seven months in Afghanistan

June 2, 2011 |  6:56 pm

  Master Gunnery Sgt. Victor Purvis holds his 7-year-old daughter, Reagan
A battalion of Marines has returned to Twentynine Palms after a deployment at Afghanistan assigned to one of the most difficult and dangerous tasks: patrolling the border with Pakistan to prevent Taliban fighters and weaponry from crossing into Helmand province.

The 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion had 43 wounded in action. A Marine attached to the battalion from an engineer battalion was killed.

The battalion's main assignment was to disrupt the flow of supplies and reinforcements from Pakistan into the province, long a Taliban stronghold. For weeks on end, Marines in eight-wheeled vehicles patrolled the desert, ready to confront Taliban crossing into Afghanistan.

In seven months, the battalion seized more than 20,000 pounds of illicit drugs, destroyed more than 200 improvised explosive devices, and killed or captured more than 100 enemy fighters.

In one sustained battle, Marines cleared Taliban from the Bahram Chah, a bazaar near the border where Taliban supplies were massed and opium was prepared for export to provide profits for the insurgency.

The battalion returned to Twentynine Palms in several groups over several days. The battalion's mission has been taken over by a battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Hundreds of family members awaited the homecomings at the desert base. James and April Wilson drove 1,250 miles from Spring Branch, Texas, to greet their son, Cpl. Dillon Wilson.

"We were here when he left," said James Wilson. "We had to be here when he got back. That's the most we could do -- except to go with him."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Master Gunnery Sgt. Victor Purvis holds his 7-year-old daughter, Reagan, at the homecoming of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Credit: Diane Durden / U.S. Marine Corps