Smiles greet Marines returning from Iraq
45 reservists served 10-month deployment
By SUSAN OLP
Of The Gazette Staff
Sara Schantz of Billings was standing in the baggage claim area of Billings Logan International Airport on Saturday afternoon, a smile on her face.
She was about to see her husband, Gunnery Sgt. David Schantz, 42, for the first time since he left for his 10-month deployment in Iraq.
"We're very excited," Schantz said, waiting next to her daughter, Alexis, 16, and members of her extended family.
Nancy Meyer of Portland, Ore., flew in Saturday to greet her son, 22-year-old Cpl. Mark Meyer of Missoula. "My son's coming home, and I could not be more proud," she said.
And then the Marines, some in uniform, some in civilian clothes, descended the escalator and stairs to the delight of their family and friends. Smiles and hugs were in abundance everywhere.
The Marines are members of the Delta Company Anti-Terrorism Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, stationed in Billings. A second wave of the reservists, 45 in all, arrived in Billings two hours later.
The Marines climbed into a bus and headed to the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center, escorted by 21 members of the Patriot Guard, to reconnect with family and enjoy a barbecue. Some family members skipped the airport and instead greeted the reservists at the West End center.
The Marines served in Al Asad, in northern Iraq, escorting civilian convoys and conducting border patrols. David Schantz, who just completed his second Iraqi deployment, said things were much quieter this time around than in 2006-07.
"One of the big differences is the ISF (Iraqi security forces) are taking over," he said. "As we step back, they're handling things, and most of the attacks are aimed at them."
Violence still occurs, Schantz said, "but it's not as widespread."
Mark Meyer, completing his first tour of duty in Iraq, said he had mixed feelings about his deployment. On one hand, he said, Marines train for action and set out to prove themselves in war.
On the other hand, a quiet deployment has its benefits.
"We got home today without losing anybody, without any injuries," Meyer said.
Members of the company will enjoy 12 days of leave, and then finish up their year of duty and fall back into their reserve status.
Published on Sunday, May 03, 2009.
an hour after a crew of four set James' headstone into the ground. She walked across the soggy turf and looked at the grave with retired Army Lt. Col. Ed Saunders, a member of the Cemetery Board who worked to open the cemetery. Horn said her daughter is coming this weekend from Denver.
"She'll be pleased to know the stone is in," Horn said. "I think it's lovely, I really do."
Earlier, Saunders watched as two Billings city employees and two Laurel city employees placed the gray granite stones in the ground and swept sand into the loose spots around the stone. The crew spent 20 minutes on each headstone, making sure they were level and that the top of the stones were exactly 26 inches above ground, which is a federal requirement.
The cemetery is being constructed to federal standards, with the hope that it will someday be designated a national cemetery, said Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy. The headstones were cut and engraved by a company in Columbia, Miss., that makes all headstones for veterans cemeteries, Saunders said. Cemetery officials chose gray granite because it withstands weather and vandalism better than white marble, which is often seen in other cemeteries.
The headstones follow strict protocols to ensure uniformity. Families can choose a religious emblem at the top of the headstone, followed by name, rank, military service and birth and death dates. At the bottom, families can include medals earned or have a short phrase written on the stone. Horn's headstone reads "Thanks for all the memories."
Spouses can be buried in the cemetery, too. Their names will be engraved on the back of the headstone. Saunders said Laurel officials received a special computer terminal that allows them to order the headstones online, which improves accuracy and cuts the wait from 10 weeks to four.
At the other side of the cemetery, workers were finishing a warming hut and bathroom for families and color guards. Grass will be planted throughout the cemetery in the coming weeks, cemetery officials said.