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The San Diego Padres mascot Friar John plays a game of craps with Marines during the welcome home party inside Hangar 1 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, March 13. Throughout the afternoon, Marines and sailors played poker, shook hands with celebrities and listened to live music. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin) (Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Thank you for serving! Marines get ‘r & r’ at welcome home event

13 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

 Marines and sailors from Third Marine Aircraft Wing spent 2008 and part of 2009 answering the nation’s call to arms in support of the Global War on Terror.

 The units celebrated the success of their recent deployments with a welcome home party at Hangar 1 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, March 13. Hundreds of service members wandered through the hangar full of games, celebrities and activities.

 “This is a great way to show appreciation for the deployed Marines, sailors and their families,” said Col. Michael H. Belding, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “It was a very successful deployment for us, from transferring of provincial Iraqi control to being instrumental in making sure the elections happened without a hitch.”

  The Marines and sailors with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing supported coalition operations in al-Anbar Province of Iraq during 2008, and racked up more than 80,000 flight hours while providing around the clock aviation support.

  “My last deployment went really well,” said Sgt. Adam Butcher, a ground support equipment mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “It’s a big morale boost to be at an event like this with the live music, celebrities and game demos.

  Representatives from Codemasters Studios brought a demo of their latest game, “Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising,” for the Marines and sailors to sample.

 The game features U.S. Marines operating on a fictional island in the near future after Chinese forces invade it to seize resources and it was the first time anyone outside the studio had the chance to play it.

  Marine celebrity Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey spoke to the service members and talked about his upcoming television show “Locked and Loaded,” and signed autographs during the three-hour bash.

  “I always enjoy coming to Miramar,” said Ermey. “I’m proud of all their hard work and it has helped make Iraq a safer place.”

  In addition to Ermey, other celebrities signed autographs and posed for photos, including actresses Kelly Hu from “The Scorpion King,” Barbara Niven from “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” Stephanie Kramer from the TV series “Hunter” and actor Jeff Speakman from “The Perfect Weapon.”

  Players from the San Diego Chargers shook hands and signed autographs with the Marines. Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed-martial-artist Dean “The Boogeyman” Lister also made an appearance to sign autographs.

  One of Budweiser’s own Clydesdales, “Pops,” who made an appearance in Superbowl XLIII  commercials neighed for the service members who    pet him.

  Marines won raffle prizes, competed in games and listened to live music from country singer Amy Scruggs throughout the afternoon. Marine Corps Community Services spent three months organizing this party. They organized a similar event in 2007 for service members with some of the same   celebrities.

  “It was a great team effort by the whole station,” said Irma Malabanan, the marketing director with MCCS. “It felt like a miniature air show and it went together beautifully. Much thanks to generous business leaders of the community who helped support this.”

  Marines and sailors with 3rd MAW continue to support operations overseas with many still deploying throughout the year. The squadrons here will deploy in the upcoming year to again answer the nations call to arms.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing