7 months on a Navy ship isn't easy, but returning Marines say it's 'worth it'
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 3, 2018
CAMP PENDLETON (Tribune News Service) — Lauren Boyet has spent the last six months doing "daddy hunts" through her home with her 2-year-old son, Dylan, who was convinced his father was hiding somewhere in the house.
"We walked through every room and opened all the closest doors to show him daddy wasn't here," the 22-year-old explained. "Last month, he finally understood."
But just four weeks later, Dylan's desperation to see his father was satisfied. On Friday, Feb. 2, he couldn't let go of Cpl. Taylor Boyet, who was among 4,500 Marines and sailors returning in groups this week from a seven-month deployment as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Friday's group of 300 was the MEU's command element and the last this week to return from a trip around the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean.
"It's like a dream, it doesn't feel real yet," Cpl. Boyet said, holding a fidgety Dylan. "I was nervous coming back, I didn't know how much they would have changed, especially my younger one. He babbles a lot more."
The deployed units did maritime security operations and trained with U.S. allies, traveling on board the USS America, USS San Diego and USS Pearl Harbor.
"It's a way for us to give back to the nation and we hope the nation is proud of what we're doing" said Capt. Maida Zheng. "When we're gone it's hard but it makes it all worth it."
The 13th MEU, which began training this week at Camp Pendleton, will replace the 15th MEU and deploy this summer.
"We're a crisis response force based on worldwide events," said Lt. Col. Richard Alvarez, the returning command unit's executive officer. "You don't know what you could be tasked with, but you know you're going to respond."
For Cpl. Crystal Gomez, the deployment was her second. While she loved the liberty stops in places such as Guam, Israel and Dubai, life on the ships wasn't easy, she said.
"I was in this confined space with a bunch of females," she said. "There was no privacy. You go to work with them, you berth with them, you shower with them, you go to the gym with them, they're everywhere. I missed doing everyday things you take for granted like getting off work and having time to myself."
A highlight of her deployment was meeting her fiance's family on Guam, she said. "They welcomed me and took me all around the island."
On Friday night, even though Gomez was tired of traveling, she had another trip planned. This time it was boarding a plane to Florida to see her fiance.
"I'm not playing around," she said.
For the Boyets, Friday night plans included a quick stop at Taco Bell for soft tacos and not worrying anymore about "daddy hunts."
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Cpl. Taylor Boyet reunites with his wife, Lauren Boyet, and his sons Dylan, 2, and Wyatt, 1, as the family walks out to their car after Cpl. Boyet, and about 4,500 other Marines and Sailors, returned to Camp Pendleton following a 7-month deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean on Friday, February 2, 2018.
JEFF ANTENORE/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER (TNS)