News: Sweet home Cherry Point: VMA-542 returns from six months overseas
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Marine Attack Squadron 542 Marines and Sailors embraced their family and friends upon arrival to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point after a six-month deployment, Jan. 11.
“We have 105 Marines returning today,” said Rachael Banton, the family readiness officer for VMA-542. “The Marines have been to multiple bases such as MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, Marine Expeditionary Camp Pohang, Korea and served on the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.”
Upon landing in Japan, the Marines of VMA-542 got right to work deploying four aircraft to participate in an exercise called Invincible Spirit.
“We had a blast working on all the things we did in Japan and Korea,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Smiley, a powerline mechanic with VMA-542. “We did everything we could to help complete our mission whether that was supporting an exercise or helping with relief efforts in Pakistan.”
According to a deployment biography released by the squadron while in MCAS Iwakuni, and throughout the deployment, the unit was ready to respond to any contingency presented to them.
“The Tiger’s dedication to preparedness put them on the forefront as the unit of choice to support any operation,” said the unit release.
The families of the Marines were happy to reunite with their Marines when they returned.
“I am very proud of my husband,” said Katie Smiley, wife of Steven Smiley. “It has been a long six months, and I am ready to be able to hold my husband and tell him thank you for his sacrifice over these long months.”
Banton said the Marines and their wives deserve to be together today. They have missed Christmas and New Year's, and some of the Marines are coming home to a new addition to their families.
“I am so excited to see my husband after six months,” said Alexandria Wilson, wife of Lance Cpl. James Morris, an aviation mechanic. “I was in my military occupational specialty school before he left so this will be a great day for us to celebrate. He returns and I graduated not too long ago, so I am very excited to start living our life together again.”
Steven said the flight back felt like the longest part of the deployment.
“As we were flying back I just started thinking of my wife and my daughter and how much I missed them,” said Steven. “All I could think of was coming off that bus and thinking in just a few moments I’ll be holding my world in my arms once again.”
Wilson remembered thinking about the snow and how frustrating the delays where.
“With the huge snow storm we got, we had to push the return back almost 10 hours,” said Banton. “The families were very patient and understanding but a lot of them became anxious as the time got closer.”
After all the families reunited after more than six months, the families went their separate ways to spend their first night home in their own ways. Banton said one wife summed it all up for a majority of the spouses.
“It’s like my heart is whole again,” said Katie. “Without my husband here I always felt a small part of my life was incomplete. He’s home now and I can’t stop thanking God for bringing my better half home to me finally. The best thing in life is my family and the love we share together.”