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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 12, 2006

Farewell again, Kane'ohe Marines

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lance Cpl. Dana Potter relaxed as he waited yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i in Kane'ohe with other 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment members for buses to arrive. The 3/3 is deploying to Iraq's Al Anbar province for seven months.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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• More than 900 Käne'ohe Bay Marines and sailors with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are leaving Hawai'i this weekend for Iraq duty.

• An advance party of about 60 Marines with 3/3 left late last month for the Haditha area of Iraq.

• Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, with 10 CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters, is making the base’s first full squadron deployment to Iraq, and will be based at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.

• Another 900 Marines with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Käne'ohe Bay are serving in eastern Afghanistan.

• About 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers, including the division headquarters, 3rd Brigade and aviation brigade, are expected to head to northern Iraq around August for a year.

• Nearly 500 soldiers with the 84th Engineer Battalion out of Schofield Barracks deployed to Iraq late in 2005. About half of the soldiers were with the unit when it returned from Iraq in January 2005.

• Fifty-three Hawai'i National Guard Soldiers from the 298th Engineer Detachment completed more than 90 projects in eight locations while deployed to Afghanistan this past year.

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Lawena Keawe spent time with her boyfriend, Pfc. Chris Peterson, before he left last night.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Marines made some last-minute calls before boarding buses that would take them to planes transporting them to Iraq.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Couples necked in a military base parking lot last night, parents worked to hold back the tears and young men leaned against their duffel bags, weapons propped against their knees. Kane'ohe Marines were leaving for yet another deployment to the Middle East.

This time, 900 members of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are headed for Al Anbar province, Iraq, scheduled to spend seven months helping to stabilize the area.

The 3/3 returned from Afghanistan in June. Two of its members died there.

Some of the younger battalion members didn't know what to feel about the trip.

"We don't feel anything," said 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Dobie August, when asked about his emotions as the Marines waited in a parking lot at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i in Kane'ohe to board buses that would take them to their plane. "We were just talking about that."

"We're not nervous," said August's friend, 19-year-old Lance Cpl. John Jones. "We're just going, and there is no way around it. It's not like you can say: 'Hey, you know what? I quit.' "

"Might as well have a positive attitude," August said.

The trip to Iraq is the first deployment for both of them.

Corpsman Michael Loeffler, a Navy E-5, returned nine months ago from half a year in Afghanistan. His wife, Sara, knows what to expect and how to deal with it.

"Seven months is a long time," she said. "But you can piss and moan about it, or you can just keep going on, day by day, missing him every day until he returns."

Loeffler's friend, fellow corpsman Dartagnon Vera, saw his buddy off last night.

Vera, who has been in Iraq and Afghanistan, is getting out of the Navy to go to medical school. He summed up his tour of Iraq in 2003: "I saw sand and injured people and a lot of death."

Vera said he is glad to be getting out, but he thinks the medical experience he got in the Navy will come in handy.

"It'll make me a very marketable physician," he said.

Pfc. Darren Nunes, 20, was seen off by his bride, Jennifer, and his parents, Marc and Teresa Kalinin. This is his second trip to the Middle East.

"I think it is hard, seeing him off," Marc Kalinin said.

"We'll pray for him," Theresa Kalinin said. "We'll pray for all of them."

She looked at her son, eyes sad and large.

"He's my baby," she said.

Jennifer Nunes said she had known while her husband was still in Afghanistan that he would be going to Iraq. Two deployments so close together are difficult.

"But this is the last time," she said. "No more after this."

"Uh," Nunes said, "we'll see."

"What?" said his high school sweetheart. "What?"

Corporal Armando Perlaza's wife of less than one month, Marianela Perlaza, may not know exactly what to expect as a Marine wife waiting for her husband to return from a war zone, but she knows what it is like to be in the war.

Marianela, an Army specialist, was stationed in Iraq in 2004.

"I just told him not to volunteer for anything," she said. "I want him to just stay behind."

Armando knew how to advise his wife on handling the long absence of a loved one. "Just be patient," he said.

About half the 3/3 Marines left last night. A second group departs this morning.

Reach Karen Blakeman at kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.