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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Stephen Henley
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dennis Henley
Father, Son Talk About Duty in Iraq
By Norris Jones
Gulf Region Central District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq, Sept. 20, 2006 — It’s been nearly four decades since Dennis Henley filled a sand bag in a war zone. In 1967, he was a Marine Corps corporal in Quang Tri, Vietnam.

 This September while visiting Camp Ramadi, he found himself once again holding a sand bag, but this time the chore proved to be a very special, emotional moment as the individual standing beside him with the shovel was his youngest son, Marine Corps Cpl. Stephen Henley. (Sand bags are required for admission to Camp Ramadi’s dining facility.)

Dennis Henley is the security officer at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division Central District that’s overseeing $2 billion in reconstruction work in Baghdad and Al Albar Provinces including new schools, health care centers, water and wastewater treatment plants, electrical projects, police and fire stations. His 20-year-old son is in his final days of a deployment to Iraq with the Marine Corps Reserve Battalion out of Jacksonville, Fla. Stephen is the senior communications technician on a four-boat riverine small craft unit.

The Henley family knows something about service, honor, and duty. Dennis did six years with the Marine Corps, then 20 years in the U.S. Army, retiring five years ago as a chief warrant officer 4.  He and his wife Mary have been married 35 years. Three of their sons joined the Marine Corps, one the Army, another son is a firefighter, and their daughter is a deputy sheriff.

Stephen is the fourth son to serve in Iraq.

“We didn’t direct our children what career choices to make. We left that up to them,” Dennis explained.

Stephen was completing a high school pre-seminary program in New Hampshire when he attended his brother Bryan’s graduation from U.S. Marine Corps basic training. “That’s when I decided I wanted to enlist, I wanted to be a Marine,” he said.

He joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in March 2003, attended boot camp and six months of communications A-school. After completing his active duty, he applied for and was selected as the first-ever recipient of a full scholarshipoffered only to Marines at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla. (The scholarship was funded by Dominos founder Thomas Monaghan, a former Marine.) Stephen was in his sophomore year as a political science major when his Reserve unit was activated. His long-term goal is to work for the FBI, CIA, or Secret Service. He plans to get married next June to his fiancée Krista and father Dennis said he won’t miss that special event.

This is Dennis’ third tour in Iraq. He served in Baghdad in 2003 and returned in 2004. For his civilian job, he’s chief of
Dennis Henley and his son, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Stephen Henley, fill a sandbag at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.  U.S. Army photo by Norris Jones

security and law enforcement at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.

At Gulf Region Division Central District his area of responsibility includes Ramadi and Fallujah. On Sept. 14, he visited Camp Ramadi and that’s when he had the opportunity to say hello to his son. He talked with his son’s commander and saw the all-too-familiar living conditions including how 50 Marines can be packed inside one tent.

His son’s unit conducts their missions on the Euphrates River supporting special force operations and ground troops. Stephen had been part of an all-night patrol and had returned to camp just a few hours before Dennis arrived, but there were no signs of fatigue when seeing his dad who was also wearing a desert camouflage uniform.

Of his various duties in Iraq, Stephen appreciates the one month they patrolled near Haditha Dam because his unit was able to interact with the fishermen there giving him a glimpse of Iraqi life.

He’s grateful for the educational opportunities he’s earned as a Marine and is proud of his decision to serve. So is his father. Semper Fi.

Last Updated:
09/20/2006, Eastern Daylight Time
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