Skip to comments.Visits from family members help healing process
Posted on 08/08/2006 4:40:12 PM PDT by SandRat
CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 8, 2006) -- When Army Maj. John W. Penree decided to pay his nephew, Marine Sgt. Peter A. Penree Jr., a visit in Iraqs Al Anbar province, the timing couldnt have been better.
The circumstances, however, probably could have.
Both men are currently deployed to Iraq Penree Jr., serves with the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in western Al Anbar Province; Maj. Penree with the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 3rd Corps Support Command in Balad, Iraq.
Penree Jr., a 23-year-old Marine infantryman from Frankfort, N.Y., was wounded recently when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with explosives into a U.S. military outpost just south of this sprawling U.S. military air base.
Hes spent the better part of two weeks recovering at a military medical facility here.
When his uncle found out about the injuries, he decided to expedite his plans to travel the hundred or so miles from Balad to Al Anbar province to visit his wounded nephew.
Maj. Penree caught news of his nephews injuries after speaking with family members back in the States, he said.
Initially, I received a report that he was injured, but I didnt know the severity of the injuries, I just knew it was a large blast, said Maj. Penree, a 49-year-old from Hartwick, N.Y. Later on I was told that he was O.K., and that the injuries were not life threatening.
As soon as his command allowed him, Maj. Penree hopped a convoy and made the trek to Al Asad a fortunately uneventful road trip. The convoys he was on didnt encounter any improvised explosive devices roadside bombs used by insurgents to target coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.
A long time coming
Still, roadside bombs or not, the major wasnt about to miss seeing his nephew. He hadnt seen him in five years.
Multiple deployments for both men have prevented any type of family reunion for the two U.S. servicemen. When Sgt. Penree received orders to a Marine Corps unit in Hawaii, Maj. Penree was deployed to Greece. Whenever one was stateside, the other was deployed.
In fact, the last time they saw each other was during a family party in New York; a going away party for Maj. Penree, who was gearing up for a deployment to Bosnia. That was five years ago.
Wed try to stay in touch as much as possible, said Maj. Penree. I had back-to-back deployments. Between the joint NATO command (in Bosnia) and Afghanistan, I just havent been around.
Both men served in Afghanistan, too: You were there about two years after me, said Maj. Penree to his nephew after thinking about what years each served combat tours in Afghanistan. Yeah, we missed each other by two years.
Reunion in a combat zone
Now, both men are finally stationed in the same country, during the same deployment, in Iraq. A reunion was inevitable, according to the senior Penree.
It was my intent always to visit my nephew, but this has made it even more important to come out and see how hes doing, said Maj. Penree, who has spent nearly nine months in Iraq.
Sgt. Penree has about two months left in Iraq before heading back to Hawaii. He has orders to another Marine Corps unit on the east coast of the U.S., he said.
After seeing his nephew is indeed OK with his own eyes, Maj. Penree said the two have spent time catching-up.
It wasnt a family reunion with barbeque and beers, but itll do.
I know that Peters so tough, that hed tell me hes OK no matter what, said Maj. Penree. (But) theres been a lot of catching up, a lot of issues discussed light subject matter, heavy subject matter.
With his wounds healing quickly, Sgt. Penree says hes looking forward to rejoining his unit, which arrived in Iraq four months ago. Penree is part of a team of Marines who work daily to prepare Iraqi soldiers for eventually relieving U.S. forces of security operations in this region, which is progressing, he said.
Theyve (Iraqi soldiers) responded to trial and error. The ones Ive worked with, theyve experienced things, a lot of hard lessons learned, said Penree, who comes from a family where military service has become a tradition.
A Penree family member has served in every major U.S. war since World War II. Most Penrees have served in the U.S. Army, with the exception of Maj. Penrees brother, who served in the Navy in the late 1960s, and Sgt. Penree, who joined the Corps in 2002.
Peter broke the mold, said Maj. Penree. I believe he passed up a signing bonus from the Army recruiter in order to join the Marines; he said he wanted more of a challenge.
Sgt. Penree said his other uncle, on his mothers side, sparked his interest in the Corps.
He told me a lot of stories about bootcamp and the DIs (drill instructors) and stuff like that, said Penree. (Its) all the stuff you see in the movies; (Marines) seem to be the risk takers. If youre going to be in the infantry, you may as well be in the Marine Corps.
You could have joined the 10th Mountain Division, interrupts Maj. Penree, jokingly.
Regardless of any playful inter-service rivalry, the Penrees both agreed that seeing family in Iraq makes the deployment that much easier.
Brothers in blood, brothers in arms
The Penrees arent the only ones whove had the benefit of reuniting with a family member while serving in a war zone.
Its a bond that you cant break, especially in war. You cant beat that, said Cpl. Anthony R. Martinez, a Marine mechanic here with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Martinez, a 21-year-old from Bay City, Mich., said it was a weight off his shoulders when he linked up with his younger brother, Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Martinez, at the same medical facility where Penree is being treated.
The younger Martinez brother, a 20-year-old infantryman serving with the southern Calif.-based 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Rawah, Iraq, was also wounded when a different suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at one of his units outposts last month.
He was transported to the same medical facility as Sgt. Penree.
I told my mom that were both on the same base she said, Oh, thank God, added the younger Martinez brother, who enlisted in the Marine Corps two years after his older brother to get out of the house.
Week of family reunions
For wounded U.S. service members like Penree and Martinez, who have both spent days recuperating in a medical facility miles away from their fellow Marines and units, the sight of a family member often provides extra comfort to other relatives back home, according to Navy Chief Petty Officer Terry D. Green, the senior enlisted advisor at the Marines regimental aid station here.
In addition to Penree and Martinez, a U.S. soldier who was injured during combat operations recently in Hit, Iraq, received a surprise visit at the Regiments aid station from his wife, who works as a civilian contractor in another part of Iraq.
It helps the healing process and it helps the family back home know theyre alive and well, said Green, who says its been a week of family reunions at the RAS.
Several months ago, Lance Cpl. Ian Eichel, a 23-year-old Marine with Regimental Combat Team 7s motor transportation section another Marine unit headquarters at this sprawling airbase - reunited with his younger brother, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Eichel, a field radio operator in the same unit as Penree.
The two Marines, natives of Canton, Mich., also have a younger sister, 19-year-old Andrea, who is in the Marine Corps.
I beat his rifle score at boot camp, said the older Eichel, as Aaron shook his head and smiled during their meeting here in March.
While Ian will remain in Iraq until next year, Aaron is nearly done with his deployment. They, like the Penrees and Martinez brothers, cherish the few times they can see each other a stark contrast from when they were growing up
We only see each other once a year, admits Ian, who hadnt seen his brother in nearly year prior to their March reunion.
Last week, in a solemn Sunday morning ceremony inside RCT-7s headquarters building, Lance Cpl. Martinez was promoted to his current rank, along with another wounded Marine from his unit.
Cpl. Martinez was on hand to pin his new brothers rank on his uniform.
It really shows its true colors, having a family member there, especially having him at the same base, said Lance Cpl. Martinez after the promotion ceremony, smiling at his brother. It helps.
Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: email@example.com
Family means everything