He was released Monday at 10 a.m. until noon Tuesday, so we had a very good visit with him. Then he and his unit drew weapons and gathered their sea bags at the barracks to await transportation. The time of departure slipped a couple of times, but not by much. They shipped out to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, on commercial buses about 30 minutes later than the originally scheduled time.
At MCAS CP they flew by chartered commercial air to Kuwait; I don’t know the route. Just as I was typing the last paragraph, Stephen called from Kuwait to report he arrived fine and there were no problems. He couldn’t talk but a moment, so that’s all the news we got, but it was wonderful to hear his voice and know all was well. He did say he doesn’t know just when they’ll move into Iraq. He does know where they will go, but I’m not going to include that here.
The standard-issue M16A4 rifle. It’s heavier and more rugged than the M16A1 I carried as a young artillery officer. Seeing this picture I am reminded somehow that when our kids were small, I never let them play with toy guns even though I taught them how to shoot the real things. Guns are not playthings but are deadly serious. There’s no doubt that Stephen knows that now.
They wear their name tapes everywhere – back of their covers, above their right breast pocket, above their right rear trouser pocket, on the sling of their rifles, on their seabags and day packs. They lace a dogtag into a bootlace, standard practice at least since World War II. The other two remain around their necks.
There were many “last” embraces, but there was one that you make count and you give it before you know it’s time to watch him run to final roll call. It’s so hard to let go; you want to make time stand still. You barely breathe and try to feel his heartbeat in your own breast because his heart will always beat in yours.
Steve’s grandfather, Col. (ret.) George D. Stephens, USA, is a World War II veteran who made eight combat amphibious assaults in the Pacific. Since those days he’s always had great respect for US Marines.