Members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were to board the USS Iwo Jima, the USS Nashville and the USS Carter Hall. They make up an air-ground task force trained for invasions, rescues, raids even humanitarian missions.
The 26th MEU completed a six-month pre-deployment training last November.
Wednesday's departure scene included new babies, proud families and tearful farewells. The images were all part of what the Marines will pack away on their uncertain journey.
"It's a good send-off," said Capt. Edward Furgis. "It's pretty impressive. I appreciate all the support."
The Marines trust their training and those they train with. But many of their family members know that even the best preparation won't guarantee a return trip home.
"I'm just really stressed out," Jennifer Rokos said. "It hasn't really hit me yet. It'll hit me when I leave here, and I'm by myself."
But Wednesday was a day for pride and patriotism.
"We're proud of him," said Tom Furgis, father of Capt. Furgis. "We're glad he's going. It's the right thing to do."
The Marine tradition is storming beaches. That's exactly how the 26th left - in a sandstorm, on hovercrafts.
They headed for the USS Iwo Jima, which appeared as just a shadow on the horizon. Once on board the ship, the Marines head to the Mediterranean.
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