CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
More than 200 Kaneohe Marines returned home yesterday after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Among them was Sgt. Gary Carr, who gave his son, Zachary, back to his wife, Paula, after he saw and hugged him for the first time since his return.
200 isle Marines return from war in Afghanistan
The 2nd Battalion lost four members during seven months in the eastern border region
Kaneohe Marine Cpl. Eddie Reyes expects to be by his wife's side to see the birth of their first child, Edward Jayden, possibly as early as tomorrow.
"I knew I was going to be back in time," said Reyes, minutes after his chartered commercial passenger jet landed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay. He and his wife, Sara -- a 2003 McKinley High School graduate -- have been married for almost a year.
"I told her not to give birth until I got back," Reyes said.
Reyes was among the more than 200 Kaneohe Marines assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who returned home after seven months in Afghanistan. They are being replaced by another set of Marines from Kaneohe: members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, who left this week.
Meanwhile, throughout this week, citizen soldiers belonging to the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team will make the final voyage home. More than half of the 2,200 Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers from Hawaii will be home by this weekend after spending 10 months in Iraq.
Nearly 900 29th Brigade soldiers will be marching into their armory at Kalaeloa over the next two days, starting with nearly 500 tomorrow night and an additional 370 on Thursday.
Pacific Army Reserve officials have set Saturday as a special homecoming ceremony for members of the 100th Battalion, which is part of the 29th Brigade, and their families at Schofield Barracks with a noon luau banquet scheduled for the following day at Area X.
Since June in Afghanistan, Marine Sgt. Michael Placencia, a platoon guide with the 2nd Battalion's G Company, said that the battalion lost four Kaneohe Marines.
The nearly 900 Kaneohe Marines were assigned to Kunar province in the mountainous eastern region of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.
The most rewarding part of the seven-month assignment, Placencia said, was "getting friendly with the Afghan locals, letting them know we are there to help them and not take over their country ... helping them become a sovereign country."
The Afghan deployment for the 2nd Battalion Kaneohe Marines could result in the awarding of the Silver Star to one of its hospital corpsmen who, under enemy fire, saved the life of an F Company Marine.
Yesterday's Kaneohe Bay homecoming was a scene filled with fathers like Sgt. Gary Carr, who got to see his 7-month-old son, Zachary, for the first time.
"He was born two weeks after my husband left," said wife Paula, a 1988 Kamehameha Schools graduate.
Sgt. Dennis Altencio, whose daughter also was born after he deployed in June, got to hug her for the first time. "She's so big," said Altencio, "and so very precious."
On Thursday, Petty Officer Richard Rubianes, a 1992 Campbell High School graduate, will get to celebrate belatedly the first birthday of his daughter, Arianna, at his Salt Lake home.
"It's going to be more than just a homecoming celebration," said wife Abygail, a 1992 Kaimuki High School graduate.
"This time, he missed all of his three children's birthdays, as well as our fifth wedding anniversary in November, along with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's," she said.
"It was a long and stressful deployment," Rubianes said.
"I am glad that I got all my Marines home safely," said the Navy petty officer, who was one of the unit's medics.
Besides getting reacquainted with his family, his wife said, "what he wants most is local food -- chicken katsu and chili franks from Zippy's."