MCLB BARSTOW, Calif. --
Aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, a welcome home ceremony was held for seven Marines and a sailor at the Maj. Gen. James L. Day conference center, with support from base personnel on March 1, 2012.
The welcome home heroes ceremony is a quarterly event held for service members who have recently come home from a deployment.
"It’s nice to have this for us," said Lance Cpl. Gianni Capozziello, an infantryman and reservist from Norwalk, Conn., who deployed with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. "For us it was a surprise because we don't have things like this back home. The support from the Marines was great; we get to finally meet a majority of them, and get to talk with everyone."
Six of the seven Marines honored at the event were reservists who left the country on June 3, 2011 and came back in January. They are currently receiving training with the Provost Marshal’s Office until May. The seventh Marine honored at the event was Sgt. Maj. Richard Charron, base sergeant major.
Charron deployed with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion for seven months.
“This (homecoming) was the best one, the most private. The others that I have been to were more generalized and this one seemed more sincere.” In comparison to Vietnam, young men and women are being treated with more respect when arriving back in the states, said the Lodi, N. J. native.
"It's good to be back in the states, even if we aren't home quite yet," Capozziello said. "Being around other Marines like us is a relief."
While deployed, the reservists were part of a personal security detail and stayed in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, where they provided security and conducted many foot patrols. “One of my favorite parts was getting to meet the civilians in the town,” said Capozziello. “We worked alongside the Female Engagement Team, making sure everyone was respected.”
Capozziello reflected on how differently the women in the United States were treated in comparison to their Afghan counterparts.
The conference center was filled with service members and civilians who came to support the warriors who had recently returned to the states. Gift bags were given to the warriors and a home cooked meal was served to all, compliments of the base family restaurant.
"I was looking forward to getting the (legendary) backpack," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Clayton, Religious Program Support Specialist aboard MCLB Barstow. "Of course it's great to have the support of everyone here. It was tough being away from my family for so long."
Clayton deployed aboard the USS Essex and traveled to the South Pacific region where he stayed with 2nd Battalion 7th Marines. “My favorite part was the Philippines, even though we had to stay out in the marshy areas and have small living quarters, it was gorgeous. You got a chance to be in a Third World country and to see just how blessed we really are to be in the United States of America,” he said.
Being with a grunt unit was a different experience for Clayton, he added. While on deployment there are a few things that most wouldn’t think to miss.
"It was interesting being with the grunts," said Clayton. "I missed my family; but I also missed having Netflix and being able to watch sports on TV. Sometimes you just really wanted to be watching a movie on your own couch at home." Clayton returned home in December and recalls an uncomfortable car ride back to Barstow, with all of his gear completely filling the car.
“I was sitting in the backseat of the car with my roommate from deployment with my knees to my chest; you couldn’t see around or over all of our gear in that car. I just couldn’t wait to get back home and out of that cramped place.”
The reservists felt honored having the event held in their honor during the event, said Capozziello. "We received gift bags from different organizations and had food cooked for us.”
Overall, the welcome home heroes event was a success that made the returning service members feel appreciated.
“I think it’s a great tradition to have for everyone coming back home,” said Clayton. “It’s a good experience to have and I appreciate everyone for putting so much time into this event for us. It really makes you feel more at home again. I am also thankful that the command gave me this opportunity to deploy, it’s something that I wanted to have.”