JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Another wave of Camp Lejeune Marines has headed to Iraq. They were among almost 2,500 deployed members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In all, 12,000 new Marines soon will be in Iraq. For many, it will be their second tour of duty.
As the last of the Marines boarded buses for their deployment Tuesday, families said their last goodbyes.
"It's pretty rough taking out of here," Sgt. Ken Barnes said. "It's got its gives and its takes. You miss your family, but as long as we take care of each other over there, we'll get back to them."
Peggy Weston came with her family from Pennsylvania to see her daughter off. She is a lieutenant and Navy medic.
The family was proud, but also a little scared. Peggy said she will say many prayers.
"It's very sad, very hard," she said. "We know she'll never come back the same. None of them will. Some won't ever come back at all. And she may be one of those."
The 24th MEU left for Iraq a month early for what was supposed to be a routine deployment. The unit is scheduled to be gone about seven months, but has been warned the deployment could be extended to a year.
About half of the Marines who left Tuesday were making their second trip to Iraq in less than a year. They admitted they still were a little nervous.
"If you're not nervous, you're in trouble," Barnes said. "The nervousness keeps your instincts firing off."