NEWS FROM CLOSER TO THE FRONT LINES
Through a series of fortunate (mostly) events I have had the opportunity to spend some time near the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune complex in North Carolina. My son, a Captain and Cobra helicopter pilot is stationed a the Marine Air Station New River (adjacent to Lejeune) when not deployed. He and his new wife have a new home nearby. My girlfriend Vicky and I are enjoying being here near her daughter, son in law and 2 year old grand daughter and being near my son and his wife.
When I say we are near the camp – we are so close that the helicopters and the osprey aircraft fly over the house daily on their training flights to part of the camp that is less than a mile away. The camp also includes an area for the marine tank units to practice firing their weapons, I understand the Cobras and Hueys also do live fire there.
When the tanks are practicing the dishes rattle in the cupboards and the garage door flexes in the concussion wave. The aircraft can be heard overhead at nearly any hour but I rarely hear them at night – just tune them out I guess. I no longer have to run outside to find out which type of aircraft it is. I can tell a Cobra from a CH53 Sea Stallion (most visibly distinguished by the black sooty trail it emits and which is being replaced by the V22 Osprey) from a CH46 Sea Knight (twin rotors – big helicopter) or a V22 Osprey (awesome to watch transitioning from forward flight mode to vertical landing mode).
Another pleasant aspect of being here (and yes – the noise is pleasant – very reassuring) is when we go out- for a walk or to the store, lots of clean cut young men with very short hair are everywhere. There are lots of families and lots of young mothers with their kids.
We go to the beach and the young Marines stand out from the others. The young wives (and husbands) of deployed Marines are here as well. There are lots of “I love my Marine” bumper stickers here (mine say “My Hero is a Marine” and “Marine Dad”).
In this area the fact that we are at war is more apparent than other places. It is hard to miss. The current deployment is not on the same scale as past wars, 60 years ago this small town was populated not by the 1000 or so of today but was in fact covered with barracks and training facilities for over 100,000 Marines preparing to go to Europe and the South Pacific in WWII. But the impact it still clear.
My new daughter in law looks forward to my son’s calls and e-mails, works extra shifts to pass the time and waits for his safe return. She has learned that if there is an incident over there that could involve him, it does no good to try and get thru to him before any next of kin are notified – e-mail and phone contact is not possible until they are sure that contacts are made. The most she can hope for is a quick e-mail from the CO saying that he was not involved.
Any time I hear a helicopter goes down, I have trouble concentrating on anything else until I determine it is not a Marine Cobra or there were no casualties. I will be happy when he returns but I am very proud of his commitment and sacrifice. The boxes of cookies I bake and send seem very inadequate but it is all he asks.
This is a bit rambling but my point is – we are at war, we have people who are making a sacrifice to fight it and we should all be very proud of them and their loved ones.