Friday, June 13, 2003

Heroes' welcome planned for returning Marines



By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] When the unit departed, Maj. Antonio Capetillo promised family members, "I'm going to make sure I bring everybody back to you." True to his word, none of the Marine reservists was killed or wounded.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
Nearly 170 Cincinnati-based Marine reservists will return home Sunday from combat duty in Iraq for a heroes' welcome at Sawyer Point.

Family, friends and the public will gather on the Great Lawn at Sawyer Point at 10 a.m. Sunday as buses carry the members of Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Division of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve through the park's "Flying Pig" gates.

"It's going to be some kind of party," said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Spriggs, a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War.

In February, when members of the reserve unit departed from their Walnut Hills headquarters, the company's commander, Maj. Antonio Capetillo, made a promise to the family members gathered there to see them off. "I promise you this," Capetillo said. "I'm going to make sure I bring everybody back to you."

The commanding officer was as good as his word.

None of the unit's members was killed or wounded in action, despite being in the middle of some of the fiercest fighting of the three-week war to liberate Iraq.

Once the unit arrived at its base camp in Kuwait, it was split into small groups and assigned to larger Marine combat units where they used their skills in setting up battlefield communications systems.

Sunday, Spriggs and other Marines in the family support group will hold a briefing for the families of the returning Marines at 9 a.m. By 10 a.m., Spriggs said, he expects that the buses coming from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will arrive at the riverfront park.

"We want everybody to come down and welcome them home," Spriggs said. "Bring signs, bring banners, bring flags. We want to make this something these Marines will never forget."

The unit will hold an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. June 23, when the public can meet and talk to Marines who served in Iraq. The open house is at the Marine Reserve Center at 3190 Gilbert Ave.

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com




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