|Marines return home|
Six members of the Yuma-based Harrier squadron VMA-214 returned home to loved ones at MCAS-Yuma Thursday (7-30-09), one day ahead of the rest of the returning members of the squadron. Video by Stephanie Wilken and Rob Powell
|Homecoming at MCAS|
More members of the Yuma-based Harrier squadron VMA-214 returned home to loved ones at MCAS-Yuma Friday (7-31-09) after participating in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Africa, near Somalia. Video by Stephanie Wilken and Rob Powell
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Most of VMA-214 back home Friday
After a seven-month deployment helping protect ships from pirates, almost 90 members of the Yuma-based Harrier squadron VMA-214 are finally home.
The Marines, who left Yuma in January, served aboard ship with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The detachment, composed of Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 214 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, participated in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Africa, near Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.
Six members of VMA-214, piloting six Harriers, arrived home Thursday, one day before the rest of the group.
Detachment Commander Maj. Manuel Merino said the highlight of their mission was the counter-piracy operations, for which Marines used a sensor on the AV-8B Harrier called a Lightning Pod to conduct aerial reconnaissance.
"We were able to go out there and defeat any pirate activity and prevent it from actually taking place," Merino said.
The military leader explained that the pirates sneak up on merchant ships to overtake them. Merino said the pirate ships are smaller, operate differently, use primitive technology and usually have a group of 10 to 12 people on board.
This was different from a traditional MEU, he said, where members of the squadron conduct Theater Security Cooperation exercises.
He said that with the help of the Navy, they had a successful mission.
One Marine, Sgt. Daniel Arcuri, said he was was especially happy to be back in Yuma. Arcuri's wife, Rachelle, gave birth to their son, Noah, four months ago, and Friday was the first time he got to hold his son.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Rachelle Arcuri said after being reunited with her husband. "It's really overwhelming. I don't know what to think right now."
Yumans Robin Colburn and Danielle Brown said the Marines' homecoming filled them with a lot of different emotions.
"I'm overwhelmed with emotions," said Colburn while she was waiting to be reunited with her husband, Cpl. Jesse Colburn of VMA-214. "I'm happy, sad, nervous, nauseous.
"There's no one word when someone asks you how you feel."
For Sgt. Alicia Keppley, it was wonderful reunion with her four children. Keppley gave the children necklaces to match her own that she bought for the family while in one of the ports.
And her children were excited to see their mother.
"This is the greatest thing in the world," she said.
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857.