The final Marines deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Camp Lejeune Tuesday.
More than 2,200 Marines had already arrived home from their 9 month deployment but the final 68 Marines were working hard to get the vehicles, cargo, and gear off the USS Iwo Jima.
"Right now, we are exercising a ship to shore movement from USS Iwo Jima here to Onslow Beach," said Staff Sgt. Heath Sells, Embark Chief for the 24th MEU. “This is one of the key aspects of a Marine Expeditionary Unit."
The 24th MEU left in March to serve throughout the U.S. European, Central and Africa Commands where they participated in a number of exercises, theater security cooperation engagements, and remained on alert for a total of approximately 150 days to respond to a number of crises.
“Our Marines and Sailors have done a fantastic job demonstrating what it means to be a forward-deployed, expeditionary force ready to answer the Nation’s call,” said Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer, 24th MEU.
Col. Donovan had this message for family members of the 24th MEU, "the strength they showed here, gives us strength there," said Donovan, "they were so unified, so supportive, we were just able to laser down and get the job done."
Col. Donovan said this was a day of joy, but also remembrance. "We lost two corporals in a tragic accident over in Morocco when we had a MV-22 crash," said Donovan.
Cpls. Robby Reyes and Derek Kerns died during a training accident in Morocco, April 11, when the MV-22 Osprey they were flying in crashed while participating in the bi-lateral training exercise.
"We're missing them, their families won't be having the homecoming, but their families also take alot of pride in knowing that we got right back on the horse ... they would have wanted that."