26th MEU returns home to Camp Lejeune after 6 months at sea
Marines in an MH-53 Super Stallion assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 observe the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio during flight operations Aug. 18, 2013 in the Gulf of Aden.
The (Jacksonville, N.C.) Daily News
For the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, their most recent deployment wasn’t only liberty ports and traveling the world.
The majority of the 26th MEU came home to Camp Lejeune on Monday after more than six months at sea, making stops in countries such as Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Djibouti. Throughout the course of the deployment, the MEU’s approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors got to sightsee as well as train alongside foreign forces.
“I wasn’t necessarily relieved I didn’t go to Afghanistan, but I was glad I was selected to go on the MEU,” said Navy Lt. Federico Gonzalez, the dental officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 26. “Either deployment would have been fine with me. Hitting different ports and seeing different parts of the world definitely appealed to me.”
The men and women of the 26th MEU spent a lot of time practicing for mass casualties until they became “a well-oiled machine,” according to Gonzalez.
“I don’t think there’s an easy part about being on ship,” Gonzalez said. “But I was glad to be on the ship as opposed to being in the field. I had a warm bed, three meals a day, a shower and a toilet.”
Reuniting with his family, he said, was the best part of the deployment. Being able to see foreign countries and experience different cultures, while exciting, does not come close to spending time with his family, he said.
“I finally get to see my kids again,” Gonzalez said. “I really missed seeing what was going on with them. We get to be a family again.”
His wife and three teenage children missed him just as much and were glad the deployment is over, they said.
For his wife, Leah, sleeping alone was the most difficult part and something she said she never wants to get used to. In order to keep herself busy throughout the deployment she said she trained for and ran the Marine Corps Half-Marathon aboard Camp Lejeune.
“Preparing for this homecoming was the best part,” Leah Gonzalez said. “The deployment was fairly easy because we didn’t have any sickness or problems. The only nice part about him not being here was that there was less laundry. But I’m very willing now to do his laundry.
“I’m just glad he’s home.”