MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Deployments are a way of life for Marines and the spouses that support them. The Moonlighters of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 have been in Iraq for several months and are preparing to return home soon. On the homefront here, the Moonlighter spouses are also busy preparing for their homecoming, as evidenced by their Banner Party Jan. 7.
The Banner Party included markers, paint, pencils, sheets and a healthy dose of creativity. The party was held to create “Welcome Home” signs for the Marines and sailors who are scheduled to return home next month from a seven-month deployment.
“We want to have some signs at the squadron and at home so that when the Marines return, they feel welcomed,” said Kristine Richardson, wife of Lt. Col. Derek Richardson, a VMFA(AW)-332 pilot. “We want them to know that we are thinking about them and that we missed them.”
The Moonlighters of VMFA (AW)-332 have been deployed since late July to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, where they have been providing close air support and aerial reconnaissance for II Marine Expeditionary Force throughout the Al Anbar Province. Most recently the Moonlighters provided continuous air support for the parliamentary elections in December.
“We are very proud of them,” said Beth Ann Wilbur, wife of Lt. Col. David Wilbur, the VMFA(AW)-332 commanding officer. “They are doing a great job out there. They are flying a lot and doing great things.”
In addition to providing the Moonlighters a warm homecoming, the banner-making party was used as a method to help prepare the family members for the return of their spouses. Creating banners and preparing for the return of the deployed Marines is a normal part of a deployment, usually started a month before the return, according to Wilbur.
“It is like the light at the end of the tunnel,” Wilbur said.
This sentiment was shared by other family members at the banner party, and was evident by the mood of the room. Faces that were filled with gloom at the beginning of the deployment are now replaced with smiles.
“I am glad that this time is finally here,” said Elizabeth Intilli, wife of Maj. Albert Intilli, a VMFA(AW)-332 pilot. “I have been waiting six months for this. I am glad that we can do something like this to show our support.”
For the Marines deploying, they have the stress of an increased operational tempo and living in a dangerous environment. But for the spouses at home, they have to shoulder all the responsibilities of running a household and the dangerous conditions their spouses are enduring in Iraq.
“The best way we deal with the deployment is by keeping busy,” Richardson said. “The kids did really well and we got to write to him, e-mail and send packages.”
Although they hate to be separated for seven months, the families are proud of their Marines and are ready for their return. Making the banners is a small way to express their love and appreciation to the Marines.
“This makes it real that they are coming home,” Richardson said. “They have been working really hard, doing what their country has asked them to do. It's important for the family, and the kids to know that their dad or mom is coming home.”