AL ASAD, Iraq -- One of the greatest hardships faced by military families is the separation they endure during the long deployments to foreign ground where their loved ones are several thousands miles away.
For two Marines, a father and son serving at Al Asad, the greatest hardship was eliminated when their paths crossed recently in the sandy land away from home.
After spending 22 years of active service in the Marine Corps, the father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary O. Quinney, retired on April 30, 2001, thinking his military career had finally reached its end.
"If someone had told me on the date of my retirement that I would one day be back in boots and serving in Iraq, I would have said that they were crazy," stated Quinney, officer-in-charge, Mortuary Affairs Collection Point Al Asad, Personnel Retrieval and Processing Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). "To top it off, if they would have told me that I would also link up with my son out here, I would have pointed them in the direction of the nearest substance abuse counselor."
Almost two years after his retirement, the elder Quinney received a phone call from his son, Lance Cpl. Gary O. Quinney Jr., saying he had intentions to join the Marine Corps, as well.
"My first thoughts were -- I had served enough time for the both of us -- let's rethink this thing and possibly consider the Air Force," said the elder Quinney, a 46-year-old native of Mountain Home, Ark. "It's every father's dream for their son to follow in their footsteps, but I didn't want him to join the Marine Corps. He grew up exposed to the Marine Corps all his life, and it just seemed a spur of the moment decision."
"He wanted me to join the Air Force, but I said no," said the younger Quinney, tactical network specialist, communications platoon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). "He did 20 plus years in the Marine Corps, so why would I want to join another branch? I followed in his footsteps. I'm not going to do 20 years, but I picked the Marine Corps."
After another two years passed, the elder Quinney was recalled into the Marine Corps in August 2005, to do a job no one else wanted to do.
"A year or so after my retirement from active duty, I decided to go back to school and complete my degree," said the father, a graduate of Arkansas State University. "I earned a degree in Mortuary Science. I became a licensed mortician, funeral director and worked as a deputy coroner in Baxter County, Ark.
"The events after September 11 caused me to do some research into Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams," said senior Quinney. "Contacting the Army's Mortuary Affairs School at Fort Lee, Virginia, about possible continuing education as a mortician, I was asked to provide the school with a copy of my resume. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was being recalled from retirement to run a Mortuary Affairs Collection Point. Being surrounded by death day in and day out in my civilian job made me qualified to fill the slot."
Almost immediately after boot camp, the son was stationed in Korea for the next 20 months as the only Marine in his military occupational specialty. This situation prevented him from taking leave.
Once he received orders to depart Korea, he was stationed with MWSS-273, a squadron soon deploying to Iraq, where he would see his father for the first time in more than two years.
"It's not often that you can see your family members deployed to the same place," younger Quinney, a 23-year-old native of Beaufort, S.C., stated. "The last time I saw him was in July of 2004. I think it was great that we had the opportunity to get to see each other and that I got to see him while he was still active duty. It's been just more than two years now since we've seen each other, instead of the three and a half years that it was going to be."
Although the two, father and son, only had one week to spend together while still upholding each of their missions, they didn't let a moment go to waste.
According to elder Quinney, he won't be nearly as worried about his son in Iraq, as he is a Marine, and they take care of their own.
"There's always the thought that any parent would have if something would happen to their son or daughter," the father concluded. "I have to look at it like this; he's a mature young man, and the Marine Corps is a family. They take care of their own. From the parent side of the aspect, I'm concerned, but as a Marine to a Marine, I know they are going to take care of each other."