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Marines come home to heroes' welcome in Madison
Journal Sentinel ^ | April 8, 2005 | STACY FORSTER

Posted on 04/09/2005 8:47:46 AM PDT by mdittmar

Company patrolled 'Triangle of Death'; 4 members died

For Cpl. Andy Wentworth, it was a pitcher of green beer saved from St. Patrick's Day at a favorite watering hole.

For Lance Cpl. Justin Landaal, it was settling into life in Waupun with 4 1/2 -month-old son Payson, born while he was away. And for Cpl. Keegan Murphy, it was the joy of knowing that after nearly a year of living under a tight military schedule, he had free time staring him in the face.

From the simple to the sublime, well-earned rewards awaited each returning member of Golf Company, part of the Chicago-based Marine Reserve 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

Not that Wisconsin was ever far from their thoughts, even as they patrolled the dangerous insurgent heartland of Mahmudiyah, Iraq, where they were headquartered.

"Every day," said Lance Cpl. Troy Egger, 22, of Madison, when asked about how often he missed Wisconsin. "I was thinking about home every day."

After a brief training period at Camp Pendleton, Calif., over the summer, the battalion arrived in Iraq in September and was based in an area of central Iraq known as the "Triangle of Death" because of insurgent attacks in that region. Another Wisconsin company from the battalion, Fox Company, is scheduled to return to Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee this afternoon.

Though Friday's homecoming was a joyous one - with an airplane hangar plastered with bunting, "Welcome Home" signs and American flags - there was a bittersweet undertone.

During its tour of duty, the 900-member battalion lost 12 soldiers, most of them from Wisconsin. Of the 186 Marines in Golf Company who went to Iraq, four were killed in action: Shane O'Donnell, 24, of DeForest; Robert Warns II, 23, of Waukesha; Ryan Cantafio, 22, of Beaver Dam; and Brandon Ramey, 22, of Belvidere, Ill.

"In the 20-some odd years they lived, they did more and accomplished more than some people who live to be 80-plus," said Maj. Adam Holton, the company's commanding officer. "No one could live more than they did."

Heroes' homecoming

Terrorists in Iraq nicknamed the company the "Mad Ghosts" because, interpreters told them, television news reports said it seemed as if the Marines didn't sleep and were everywhere.

At their homecoming gathering Friday, they could have been called "Celebrated Heroes" instead.

Cheers - and tears - from the 3,000 people on the ground swelled as soon as the plane landed at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison. Once in formation on the runway, the company members marched into position and were dismissed as their wives, parents, girlfriends, friends and children clambered to clutch and kiss them.

"He's here, in the flesh," said Barbara Wentworth, Andy Wentworth's mother and the volunteer coordinator for Golf Company.

Wentworth and a dozen friends baked 18 giant apple pies - 23-year-old Andy's dessert of choice - Thursday in their hometown of Wales, to share with the company and their families.

"What is home? Apple pie and mom," Wentworth said. "We're going to give them that."

Lance Cpl. Marty Schwader's family was preparing to throw a "Marty Gras" party this weekend to welcome him back to his Milwaukee home - but he has to find it first. Schwader's mother, Jackie Huber of Kenosha, said she and Schwader's fiancée, Jill Kwasny, had to move his things to a new apartment while he was gone.

"I don't even know where I live yet," said Schwader, 22, adding that once he gets there, he plans to relax until returning to his job as a mortgage officer in May.

Schwader said Golf Company returns with great pride. The insurgent-filled area the company patrolled was considered by some to be too unstable to participate in the elections, but the battalion was considered so strong that the U.S. military forged ahead with the vote. More 70% of eligible voters cast ballots, he said.

"We really kicked off something in the Middle East, and all the other countries over there starting to really think about the way they want to run their countries," Schwader said.

Those celebrating the company's return agreed but added that the mission's success extended to what the soldiers had done for America, too.

"There is an entire family of the state of Wisconsin that is so proud of its sons, so proud of what you have done on our behalf," said Gov. Jim Doyle, who was among several state and federal officials to welcome Golf Company.

Debbie Sokol-Mester helped her Mineral Point neighbor, Sue McVay, erect signs all over town to celebrate the return of McVay's two sons, Sgt. Michael McVay Jr., 27, and Lance Cpl. Chad McVay, 23, as well as seven other Marines from the area.

The two women stayed up late Thursday night making T-shirts with pictures of the McVay boys and making sure storefronts were decked out with the proper messages of appreciation.

"The word 'thanks' is on every sign," Sokol-Mester said.

With the Marines' return, Murphy, 22, of Fond du Lac, said he hopes people in Wisconsin will get a better sense of the outpouring of support they received from Iraqis.

"We were thanked on a daily basis by the civilians," Murphy said. "It's not something that people see (in the news) back here."

The party will last for only a few days. Golf Company is due back in Madison on Wednesday to begin the process of wrapping up its work.

Andy Wentworth said he expects his thoughts in the coming days to be split between planning work to do on his La Crosse home and the experiences he now shares with his fellow Marines.

Meantime, the Marines' families and loved ones plan to shower them with attention as they begin to settle back into the routines of daily life.

"We have one piece of advice for our families: As long as we can have our remote controls back so we can watch (ESPN's) SportsCenter, it's all good," said Holton, the company's commanding officer.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iraq; madisonwi; rally; supportourtroops; welcomehome
With the Marines' return, Murphy, 22, of Fond du Lac, said he hopes people in Wisconsin will get a better sense of the outpouring of support they received from Iraqis.

"We were thanked on a daily basis by the civilians," Murphy said. "It's not something that people see (in the news) back here."

Welcome home Marines,Thank you.

1 posted on 04/09/2005 8:47:46 AM PDT by mdittmar
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To: mdittmar

This must drive the anti-war leftists in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Madison absolutely crazy. And I, for one, am glad.

Good to see that the "Mad Ghosts" of Fox and Golf Companies, 2/24 Marines (did I get that right?) know that America is proud of them.


2 posted on 04/09/2005 8:53:25 AM PDT by Moose4 (Richmond, Virginia--commemorating 140 years of Yankee occupation this month.)
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To: mdittmar

Heroes' homecoming...


EXACTLY what they deserve.

3 posted on 04/09/2005 8:53:28 AM PDT by downtoliberalism ("A coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy, a coalition partner must perform,")
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To: mdittmar
Terrorists in Iraq nicknamed the company the "Mad Ghosts"

It seems like a lot of enemy forces come up with nicknames for the units they don't want to engage. During WW2 the Japanese called the cruiser Houston and the carrier Enterprise the "Gray Ghost" on account of how many times they managed to disrupt the Japanese war efforts and then slip away. The Japanese were so confounded by them that they continued to hunt the Houston for another six weeks after they sank her off Java. For the Germans it was the 28th Infantry Division that caused them a great deal of headaches. They ended up calling the division's unit patch, which depicts a red keystone, the bloody bucket due to the ferocity of its soldiers.

4 posted on 04/09/2005 8:59:14 AM PDT by Stonewall Jackson (Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. - John Adams)
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To: mdittmar

Keep your eyes peeled for news out of Madison. I am with the UW College Republicans here and we just held a huge rally in support of the troops. It was held in response to a rally by the left on campus attempting to kick military recruiters off our campus. We are holding a news conference as I write this, so reports will be forthcoming by night's end.

5 posted on 04/14/2005 12:30:13 PM PDT by Conservative in Lib-town USA (God Bless America)
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To: Conservative in Lib-town USA

Good work.

6 posted on 04/14/2005 12:36:16 PM PDT by mdittmar (May God watch over those who serve,and have served, to keep us free.)
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