Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) left Lejeune for a six-month naval deployment Tuesday.By Kelsey Stiglitz The Daily News
The sun was rising and it was time to go.
A group of 155 Marines boarded buses from Camp Lejeune to Mayport, Florida, Tuesday morning to begin a 6-month deployment.
The men and women are just some of 2,5000 Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deploying aboard the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group.
Col. Farell J. Sullivan, commanding officer of the 26th MEU Marines, said his unit underwent training for a year to prepare for the deployment; including disaster relief following Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
“We are as ready as we can possibly be,” Sullivan said.
The unit will travel overseas in Europe and the Middle East and work with U.S. allies on crisis response and maintaining security.
“We’re all excited to go but at the same time, we’re leaving our families behind,” Farell said.
According to a press release from 26th MEU, the unit will board three ships -- the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) at two different locations: Naval Station Mayport and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Families of Marines and sailors shipping out helped load gear into a cargo truck and took pictures before the units left.
The Tracey family was there for their son, Brian and said they were proud of him.
“We’re sad to see him leave but we’re definitely really proud of him,” Ashley Tracey, Brian’s sister said. “We just pray the Good Lord watches over him and pray he comes home safely.”
Mark and Maggie Heffinger flew down from Pennsylvania to wish their son, Michael Heffinger, well and take care of his vehicle.
It’s Michael Heffinger’s first deployment, but his father said he was excited to go after five years.
“He was always like ‘I want to go, I want to get deployed,’ and then he got with this unit (and is leaving),” Heffinger said.
The Heffingers said their stay in Jacksonville wouldn’t be long because they were driving to Oklahoma to see their other son before deployment over the next few days.
“We’re anxious, a little bit sad, but very proud,” Heffinger said.
Reporter Kelsey Stiglitz can be reached at 910-219-8453 or kstiglitz@JDNews.com.
Source : http://www.jdnews.com/news/20180206/marines-begin-six-month-deployment