Leathernecks Get VIP Welcome Home
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Jan. 7, 2000 About 200 Marines returning from a six-month Pacific deployment got more than they expected at their welcome home celebration here Jan. 6. Defense Secretary William Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, crashed their party.
Battery E, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, had just returned from Okinawa, Japan. During the deployment, several unit members had further deployed to East Timor and Australia with the 36th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Marines were being reunited with their families at a unit recreation area when they received their surprise visitors.
Cohen was here to announce a major housing initiative when he heard about the homecoming and insisted on dropping in.
The returning Marines were thrilled.
"You expect your family to be here, but to have such a dignitary show up, that's outstanding!" said Gunnery Sgt. Darrell McNeal, an 11th Marines artilleryman.
"This is great," fellow 11th Marines Gunnery Sgt. Wil Medina chimed in. "They should do this more often. It gives the Marines a sense that the leaders appreciate our service."
The Cohens were just as thrilled. "Seeing this gives you a better appreciation of how happy they are to be reunited with their families," Cohen said.
After visiting with some of the Marine wives, Langhart Cohen had plenty to say as well. "They're so young," she said, referring to the Marines' spouses. "They have to be single wives, young mothers. How do they manage it [when their spouses deploy]? I was overwhelmed at their dedication and the lengths they were willing to go to support their men."
Later the Cohens discussed family issues with a larger audience. The secretary said the families talked about what it's like when their Marines are getting ready to leave. "The tension, the anxiety of handing over a will, and then, once the Marine is gone, the spouse has to assume responsibility for everything," Cohen said.
"Then there's a different kind of reaction when they're ready to come back," he said. "One spouse told me she doesn't even mind her husband throwing his shorts and socks in the corner. She's just happy to have him back."
"But now they'll be fighting for the remote control again," Langhart Cohen added.