Hawks return home after Operation Iraqi Freedom

16 May 2003 | Pfc. C. Alex Herron

More than 150 Marines and Sailors of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 returned home, May 10,after participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Marines of VMFA (AW) 533 came back in two waves. The first was on Thursday with the jets returning followed by the main body on Saturday on a 747.

"It's a great day," said Maj. Gen. John Castellaw, the commanding General of 2nd Marine Air Wing. "It's great to see the Marines we've trained. They have played a key role in operations, helping organize on the battlefield."

"The Marines of VMFA (AW) 533 are very passionate and consider it an honor to serve their country," said Col. David H. Peeler, the commanding officer of MAG-31, "Our Marines are very patriotic and very dedicated to serving this country," Peeler said. "It's a very happy day in Beaufort; I'm glad they're home."

The Marines Squadron left in February to help show the U. S. presence in the Middle East. The Marines and Sailors worked from the time they left until they returned almost non-stop.

"We worked in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week, said Staff Sgt. James Hinson, an electrician with 533.

The Marines' friends and families were very excited about seeing them for the first time in three months.

"I'm very excited to see them home," said Julie Burton, wife of Capt. Eric Burton, an F-18 pilot. "I pray for him everyday because their jobs are so inherently dangerous. When they're away it's like we have to do our part too. We take care of things back home while they are out doing this."

For many of the Marines, it was the first time they have seen their newborn
children. Many others have missed out on three months of their children's lives.

"It exceeds what I thought it could be," said Capt. Bruce Gordon. "You don't
realize how much you miss them until you see them."

The Marines were also very excited to be home after their three-month deployment.
They were wanting to go and do things they have been thinking about for

"I'm doing it right now, just standing here seeing, being here and loving my
family," said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Eberhard, an imagery interpreter.