RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
More than 250 Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, returned home yesterday to Kaneohe after serving seven months in Iraq. Lance Cpl. Edgar Salazar held his 5-week-old son, Anthony, for the first time.
Tears, joy mix for isle families
Kaneohe Marines return as more local Guard members prepare to leave
The first 250 of 1,000 Kaneohe Marines arrived yesterday from Iraq, bringing joy and tears to their families.
But as they celebrated their return, another group of Hawaii soldiers was preparing to leave.
2 soldiers with isle ties die in Iraq
Two soldiers with Hawaii ties were killed in Iraq this week, the Department of Defense announced yesterday.
Pfc. Jay S. Cajimat, 20, of Lahaina died Friday in Baghdad of wounds suffered when a vehicle with a bomb detonated near his unit. Cajimat was with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
On Thursday, Sgt. Forrest D. Cauthorn, 22, of Midlothian, Va., died in Hawijah of wounds suffered when his unit was fighting enemy forces using small arms and grenades.
Cauthorn was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks.
Members of the Hawaii Army National Guard posted in Hilo were to leave for Iraq today.
The Guard unit is likely to face an increasingly hostile Iraq, after a powerful Shiite cleric ordered his militiamen to redouble their efforts to oust "your arch enemy."
The cleric's announcement yesterday came as U.S. forces reported the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers. Officials also reported the death of two soldiers with Hawaii ties: Pfc. Jay S. Cajimat, 20, of Lahaina died Friday in Baghdad; Sgt. Forrest D. Cauthorn, 22, of Midlothian, Va., died in Hawijah on Thursday.
According to various media reports, security remained so tenuous in Baghdad on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of the city that Iraq's military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. today.
The government also quickly reinstated today as a holiday, just a day after it decreed that April 9 no longer would be a day off.
Lance Cpl. Edgar Salazar cradled his 5-week-old son, Anthony Alexander, like a pro.
Staff Sgt. William Swinson was looking forward to celebrating his 13th wedding anniversary today after missing it last year because he was deployed to Afghanistan.
These Kaneohe Marines were among the 250 members from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who were the first to arrive home yesterday after spending seven months in the Al Anbar province northwest of Baghdad.
It will take several charter flights over the next 10 days before all of the nearly 1,000 Marines will be back in the islands. They are being replaced by Marines from their sister unit, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. It will be the second combat tour for the 1st Battalion, which also fought in Afghanistan for seven months beginning December 2005.
For Swinson, 36, this Iraqi tour was the sixth time he deployed since he enlisted in the Marine Corps 17 years ago.
For his wife, Monique, this last combat tour "was a little rougher" than the earlier ones.
"I'm glad to have him home safely," she said as she watched her husband hug their 3-year-old daughter, Taniya.
Swinson's unit took over nearly 1,200 square miles of Al Anbar province in the "triad region" of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana from another sister unit -- the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines -- in September. Within a few weeks, the 2nd Battalion was the target of insurgent roadside bombs and sniper fire.
The 2nd Battalion lost 23 Marines during its deployment; 100 were wounded. Half of its combat deaths occurred during their first three months in Iraq.
Yesterday at a Kaneohe Bay hangar, their thoughts were on family and friends.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Marines who arrived yesterday were the first of nearly 1,000 who will be returning to Kaneohe over the next 10 days.
Salazar, 19, said he learned of his son's birth on Feb. 28, right after he came off a patrol.
Until yesterday the only way he knew what his son looked like was through the photos his wife, Julieanna, sent to him via e-mail.
Cpl. Wade Mayhew, 23, said his plan for the next several days is "just to talk and hang out" with his wife. Mayhew also is a combat veteran of the Afghanistan war.
Isabel Portillo said before she does anything else, she plans "to go to church and say a prayer" for the safe return of her boyfriend, Cpl. Christopher Taylor, who survived a second Iraqi combat tour.