Marine Reservists welcomed home from Iraq -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Marine Reservists welcomed home from Iraq

September 15, 2006

Albany -- Three Georgia Marine Reservists are back home after a seven month deployment to Iraq. Two of the reservists are brothers who served in the same Detachment in Iraq.

A surprise greeting welcomed the Marines as they arrived at Albany's Airport Friday morning. The Wilbanks family's excitement built as the plane carrying the two brothers home from Iraq approached Albany.

Matthew was much smaller when his father Stephen left. "But He hasn't started walking yet, waiting for Daddy to come home."

 Christen Wilbanks and her two sons can't wait to see Corporal Stephen Wilbanks. Christen said "The anticipation is a little overwhelming right now. We are all really excited."

 Cynthia Wilbanks' husband Gunnery Sergeant Todd Wilbanks is Stephen's brother. Both have been in Iraq seven months. "He's been gone a long time. It's time for him to be home."

 A couple of dozen family members and friends were ready, and finally the three Marine Reservists arrived to a tear filled welcome. Sergeant Robert Nash of Valdosta was greeted by the U.S. Marine Reservists in Albany, on his return from Iraq. Nash said "It was an experience. I actually enjoyed it. For me, it was good."

All three volunteered for deployment to Iraq. It's unusual for brothers to serve in the same unit in a war zone, but the Wilbanks wanted to go together. Todd Wilbanks said "We went ahead and leaned forward and took steps to separate ourselves, just in the event that worst case scenario takes place."

What are your plans now? Todd said "Nothing, nothing. Just try to resume some sense of normalcy."

Christen Wilbanks said "I have a little bit of a honey-do list for him. I'm just so glad to have him back, and have him share time with the boys, and it's going to be great."

 Todd and Cynthia Wilbanks and Nash all work at the Marine Base, while Stephen is a Deputy with the Hall County Sheriff's Office. But the three Reservists have about three weeks leave now to just enjoy being back home.

Those three Marine Reservists had a grim job in Iraq,  Personnel Recovery Platoon. They retrieved bodies near Fallujah. Soldiers killed in action, as well as insurgents killed fighting Coalition forces and civilians killed in the war.

But these Albany Reservists say it's an important job with great humanitarian responsibility. Todd Wilbanks said "It can be taxing at times, but it's also one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had."

Stephen Wilbanks said  "The guys who really have it difficult are the ones over there patrolling the streets everyday. Pulling the trigger. Those are the ones that deserve the credit, not guys like us."

All three of the Reservists say they are proud of what their unit and the American military is accomplishing in Iraq. Nash said he would go again if called.  


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