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Blacksheep back home after seven-month deployment
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It was an afternoon of reunions as Yuma-based Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 214 — the Blacksheep Squadron — returned from a seven-month deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf.
For Cpl. Nathaniel Powers, it's the day he finally gets to hold his 3-month-old son, Nolan, who was born on March 29, halfway through Powers' deployment.
“Meeting this little guy was the only thing I could think about. It was rough knowing I wasn't going to be here. We were on the other side of the world when he was born.”
For Powers' wife of three years, Jennifer, she was happy her husband was finally back home and that they can be a family again.
“I'm in shock. It still doesn't feel real. I still can't believe this is finally happening,” said Jennifer, who spent the final three months of her pregnancy alone. “It was really hard, but I just took it one day at a time and focused on being the best mom I could. I think that made it easier.”
Powers' father-in-law Bruce Arva, of Rochester, N.Y., flew to Yuma to be with his daughter for Nolan's birth. “I was the one who experienced the things that Nate should have but couldn't be there for.”
The 11th MEU left in November and participated in several exercises with partner nations in regions such as Hawaii, Singapore and throughout the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, Pacific and Red Sea. In addition to the training, the Marines provided humanitarian assistance where needed.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Harper also became a daddy while deployed, missing the birth of his second son, Logan, who was born two weeks after Harper left. If that wasn't hard enough on him, he also missed his oldest son's first birthday and steps.
“We have been counting down the days until today,” said Esmarelda, Harper's wife of six years.
Esmarelda said her husband has been deployed four times so far, twice since they married. This most recent deployment, however, was the first time since he had children.
“He left for his previous deployment two weeks after we got married,” Esmarelda said.
Although he has seen pictures of his son, Harper said it doesn't compare with finally being able to see him with his own eyes and hold him in his arms.
“It was long, too long,” Harper said of the deployment. His wife added, “He told me this was his hardest deployment because he missed his children.”
The jet that flew the Marines from Camp Pendleton landed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma around noon. From there, the Marines walked to the squadron's hangar where their loved ones were all standing out front anxiously awaiting their arrival.
For Mackenzie Hobbs, the past several months of worrying ended the moment she saw her husband, Cpl. Seth Hobbs, and ran over to him, They spent the next several moments locked in a kiss-filled embrace.
“I have been waiting a long time for this day,” said Mackenzie, who still had tears in her eyes. “It was really hard. It took awhile to get used to. I'm so happy he is back.”
The Hobbses have been married three years, but this was their first deployment. In addition to missing the holidays, Hobbs missed his anniversary.
“It was a good experience, but it was long,” Hobbs said. “It definitely helped being able to stay in touch through emails and Wi-Fi at ports.”
For Cpl. Matthew Brennan, Thursday's homecoming was a family affair. In addition to his wife and two children being there, his parents flew to Yuma from Florida to greet him as well.
“It has been a very long seven and a half months,” said wife Brooke Brennan.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.