Thanksgiving homecoming for hundreds of Kaneohe Marines

Published: Nov. 24, 2011 at 8:58 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2011 at 1:20 AM HST
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By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - At a hangar on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the emotion of family reunions was as big as the giant welcome home banners on the wall.

"We've been counting down. It just makes Thanksgiving have a whole new meaning for our family," said Victoria Grace, whose husband was returning from his fifth deployment.

About 300 Kaneohe Marines returned to the base.

Mary Barnes battled butterflies, watching for her husband.

"I'm looking. I'm looking," she said, peering over the crowd.

She was surprised when he suddenly showed up at her side. After seven months in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, 1st Lt. Victor Barnes hugged his two-year-old son, Gabe, then held his baby girl, Olivia, for the first time.

"I've only seen pictures," he said.

When these Marines left Hawaii, Sgt. Aloha Tupou's daughter was ten days old. Now she's crawling.

"She's tall and looks like me a little," he said.

The Marines from Echo Battery and Charlie Company deployed in April. They patrolled southern Afghanistan and conducted counter-insurgency sweeps.

"It was rough. Staying up late nights. Waiting to come home, pretty much everyday. it's good to be back," Cpl. Brandon Thaller said, clutching his wife Gina's hand.

But not all of them made it back alive. Two Marines from 1st Battalion, Pfc. Josue Ibarra and Cpl. Nicholas Ott, were killed in action.

"It hurts. The goal is to bring them all home. But we also know sometimes that doesn't always happen," Lt. Col. Sean Charney said.

Echo Battery landed first at K-Bay this morning with 130 marines. Charlie Company followed with 160.

"We're so thankful to have him safe and back home," Mary Barnes said.

"It's the greatest Thanksgiving," Lupi Tupou said.

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