2/5...everybody came home alive.

Gypsy

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Welcome home, Marines!

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationw...ry?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=1&cset=true

An infantry battalion that had 200 members voluntarily extend their enlistments returns from Iraq, and 'everybody came home alive.'

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
9:38 AM PDT, October 8, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON -- The U.S. involvement in Iraq is often judged by numbers. Among the most important are the number of boots on the ground and the number of dead.

When 200 members of the 800-member 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment extended their enlistments this year so they could accompany the Two-Five back to Iraq, it was significant. No infantry battalion has had as many Marines extend their tours as the Two-Five -- Marines who were "short-timers" and could have ended their service with comfy stateside billets but chose instead to return to Iraq to help less-experienced Marines navigate the dangers.

As the Marines from Two-Five returned here early today, they had a new number to boast about: zero.

In seven months of patrolling the streets of Ramadi, once the most violent city in Anbar province, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment had no Marines or sailors killed and only one injured. In its previous deployment, the battalion's numbers were 15 killed and more than 200 wounded.

No one is saying the presence of the 200 Marines who had extended their tours was the crucial factor in the battalion returning with no fatalities. No one is saying it wasn't.

"100% accountability: Everybody came home alive," said Staff Sgt. Joe Flores, 33, as he embraced his wife, Yadira. "100%."

Hundreds of family members waited in the cool night air, welcome-home banners at the ready. Shortly before 2 a.m., the first buses arrived, bringing Marines whose flight from Iraq had landed at the Air Force Reserve base in Riverside.

For Wendy Hill of Phoenix, it was the end of the longest seven months of her life. Her son, Cpl. Joshua Bodnovits, 22, was on his first tour. She had taken comfort that so many of his fellow Marines had opted to return with him.

"I prayed every day that they wouldn't have any casualties," she said. "It was hard at first, then it got easier. But as the date for them to come home got closer, I got scared something was going to happen."

Barbara Porter's son, 22-year-old Cpl. Jesse Porter, was one of the 200 who responded to an appeal from their commanding officer and sergeant-major to make another trip to Iraq before returning to civilian life.

"It scared me to death, but it wasn't surprising," said Porter, also of Phoenix. "He couldn't stand to let them go without him."

Jo McDaid of Kalamazoo, Mich., was similarly unsurprised when her son, Sgt. Matthew McDaid, 22, announced he was returning to Iraq voluntarily.

"He's a sniper, so he has skills he thought he could use to protect his brothers," she said.

There are other factors on why the Two-Five returned with no deaths. The Iraqi security forces are taking a more active role in Ramadi, and support from Sunni Arab tribal sheiks has been strong.

Cpl. Taren Hicks, 22, from Idaho, was one of the 200. "He's a Marine doing his job, end of story," said his grandfather, Ken Ohls of Idaho, a former Marine.

As the Marines tumbled from the buses, many were able to hold children born during their absence. Among them was Cpl. Saul Mellado, holding his 5-month-old son Christopher, handed gingerly to him by his wife, Kirsten.

In his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, President Bush quoted a news story in which Mellado explained why he returned to Iraq rather than stay home and await his son's birth: "I'm here so our sons don't have to come here and fight someday."

As they left the parade deck, the Marines and their families had special plans. Family barbecues, trips to Las Vegas, a beach outing in the California sun. One family from Oklahoma had a surprise for their son: tickets for the Texas-Oklahoma State football game.

Hill had plans, too, for the hours after greeting her son.

"I'm going to get the best night's sleep in seven months," she said.
 
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