News: Families prepare as Gator company heads to Okinawa
Story by Cpl. James Gulliver
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – As family members and Marines said their final goodbyes, the Downing family stood stoic among the teary-eyed crowd. They have experienced this before, the feeling of being separated from a loved one for an extended amount of time.
Due to the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps, deployments are inevitable, creating a great deal of stress on Marine families.
“He was a drill instructor for three years so we already have spent a lot of time apart,” said Dianna Downing, Staff Sgt. Daniel Downing’s wife. “It definitely puts a strain on the relationship. Just staying connected and in contact becomes extremely difficult.”
The Downing family uses video chat devices to ease the pain of being separated. They believe that staying connected plays a huge role in making a deployment easier. While her husband was serving as a drill instructor, Dianna used Skype multiple times to stay in contact while they were away from each other.
“While he is gone, I won’t have him to come home to and talk about my day,” said Dianna, a resident of Oceanside. “That’s why video chat programs work so well because I still have that luxury of seeing him and knowing he is okay.”
Dianna and Daniel have been married for more than eight years and will miss their nine year anniversary because of the deployment. Both of them feel their relationship is strong and that even with these setbacks it won’t be as hard on them because they’ve been through trials before.
“We have been married for a long time now. For that entire time I have been in the Marine Corps,” said Staff Sgt. Downing, a platoon sergeant with Echo Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. “We know what it’s like to be apart and how to stay connected, a lot of these younger spouses don’t know what that’s like making it harder on them.”
Downing said the deployment is necessary for the Marines to accomplish, even with the hardships it might put some of the families through.
“We are going to be the forward operating capability for the Marine Corps,” said Downing a native of Owosso, Mich. “We can really help out with disaster relief situations and we will be working with multiple nations including Thailand and Korea.”
Echo Co. will be replacing Bravo Co. in Okinawa for the six-month deployment, acting as a quick reaction force for the Pacific theater. The Marines must be ready to provide humanitarian aid for disasters, such as the response for the recent typhoon in the Philippines. The Marines will also perform multiple training scenarios while on the deployment, preparing them for any crises that may arise.
“This is where working with the Thailand Marines and the Koreans really comes into play,” said Warrant Officer David Bruce, maintenance officer with Echo Co., 3rd AABn. “It helps us to train outside of our comfort zone by being overseas, giving us more experience for any crisis that can occur.”
It was almost time for the Marines to board the bus, many spouses and family members were in tears. Some of them took comfort knowing why their Marines were leaving.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to someone you love so much,” said Dianna. “But knowing he is going out to do the right thing and serve his country makes me feel a little better.”
The time finally came. The Marines boarded the bus while waving goodbye to their families and loved ones. It was time for them to focus on their deployment and whatever obstacles and situations lay in front of them.