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Amy Hittle and her two sons, Eric, left, and Alex, and the family dog, Daisy, are eagerly awaiting the return of Maj. Patrick Hittle, who has been deployed with 9th Engineer Support Battalion since August. The battalion executive officer gets back in about two weeks.
Amy Hittle and her two sons, Eric, left, and Alex, and the family dog, Daisy, are eagerly awaiting the return of Maj. Patrick Hittle, who has been deployed with 9th Engineer Support Battalion since August. The battalion executive officer gets back in about two weeks. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Christmas was two -and-half months ago, but at the Spradlin house the tree is still up.

The holiday, the presents and 7-month-old Alexandra are waiting for Capt. Dev Spradlin to get back from Iraq.

“That way he can still be there for her first Christmas,” his wife Sarah Spradlin said about the couple’s first child, who was born after the captain deployed. “We’ll have Christmas in March.”

The Marines of 9th Engineer Support Battalion are almost back from their seven-month deployment to Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, and their spouses and families are getting ready for them to be home again.

When the month began last week it marked the beginning of the final countdown.

“It’s March! It’s March!” Amy Hittle, wife of the battalion’s executive officer, Maj. Patrick Hittle, said she thought when the calendar finally left February behind.

“The anticipation has hit,” Spradlin said.

Sky Ladd, who is married to Staff Sgt. Joshua Ladd, said she tries not to think about the homecoming because she gets so excited. She said she has a shoebox full of notes of “things I want to remember to tell him.”

Ladd kicked off the month with “the official house clean,” she said. “I’ve let that slide for the past seven months.”

The upcoming reunion will bring adjustments to routines, so room can be made again for the returning family member.

“Mommy has forgotten how to cook,” Hittle said to her two boys. “That will be the challenge.”

Dinner has been eaten out or has been meals such as scrambled eggs or oatmeal.

“I’ll have to cook a real meal, serve it on a plate … at the dining room table,” she said, nodding to the table, which these days is more homework station than eating place with stacks of papers, a blue truck and a green stuffed frog. “We’ve kind of had our own life these last seven months.”

She rearranged the furniture and did “a little shopping while he was gone,” she said, pointing out a hutch, a painting and couple of small cabinets.

The Hittle dog, too, will have to adjust. Daisy, a black lab, will be kicked back to the floor from the bed.

Megan Duesterhaus, who is a personal trainer and a group fitness instructor, said since her husband, 1st Lt. Greg Duesterhaus, left her days have started at 5 a.m. and sometimes don’t end until 9 p.m.

“I opened certain time frames up because I didn’t have some one waiting for me at home,” she said. “It did just occur to me that I may need to scale back now.”

Duesterhaus said the deployment taught her independence and self-reliance.

“But I could have learned the same lessons in two months and not seven,” she said.

Spradlin, who drove herself to the hospital to give birth and then home afterwards, has saved 54 pages of e-mails from her husband on a Word document that she plans on showing her daughter someday.

The Marine captain said she is counting the days until she can introduce the two.

Miming handing the baby to him, she laughed: “It’s going to be like, ‘Hi, honey, here’s your daughter.’”

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