BARSTOW, Calif. - Returning from a deployment into the supportive, warm and open arms of a loved one can be the best feeling a Marine ever experiences. On the contrary, having no one welcome you back or showing you appreciation for a job well done could cause the opposite feeling, and no one deserves that.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow hosted “Welcome Home Heroes” Nov. 27 at the Maj. Gen. James L. Day Conference Center aboard the base to welcome back Marines recently returning from overseas deployments.
Welcome Home Heroes shows the Marines they were missed and not forgotten by the community they left behind.
“The community here wants to support those Marines out there,” said Julie Wilbanks, head of Marine Corps Family Team Building aboard the base. “
We wanted to show them we’re glad they’re back safely,” she added.
The two Marines recognized were more than thankful for the event being held in their honor.
“I really appreciate them holding the event for us. It means a lot to me,” explained Sgt. Jacey Marks, S-3 chief with Headquarters Battalion aboard MCLB Barstow.
“Other units do something like this, but it’s usually in mass. I’ve never seen something for each individual person. I liked it a lot,” he added.
Married Marines like Marks have a family to come back to. Single Marines stationed far from home often don’t have a family to welcome them back. The Welcome Home Heroes event provides them with just that.
“It’s great to see all these people come out to welcome us home,” said Cpl. Christopher Schmitt, a postal clerk returning from a seven month deployment in Afghanistan.
“I didn’t know that many people were going to be there. It’s nice to see the command and the community looking out for us like that,” he added.
Companies in the city of Barstow also shower the Marines with gifts to welcome them back, she added. Marks and Schmitt were given a night’s stay at a local hotel, dinner at a restaurant in Barstow and other gifts from locals.
Base personnel attended the event along with some from off base as well. A class from Barstow Christian School came, presenting gifts they made in class for the Marines returning.
Some of the guests enjoyed the event as much as the honored Marines.
“Personally, I love hearing the stories the Marines tell us when they come back,” said Wilbanks.
“The story (Marks) told about his time in Germany was a real emotional one,” she remarked on Marks’ tale on recovering remains in Europe from service members who fought in World War II to help bring closure to their families.
The event has been held for several years for Marines stationed aboard MCLB Barstow. Marine Corps Community Services plans to continue the popular event.
As far as Wilbanks and the rest of MCCS, Marines aboard the base and the Barstow community are concerned a Marine stationed aboard the base returning from deployment will always have someone to welcome them back.