BRUNSWICK — Heather Beckett sat against one wall of the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center, trying to keep her emotions in check.

Her husband, Sgt. David Beckett, whom she married nine days before he shipped out for Afghanistan in May, was just 30 minutes away.

“Butterflies,” she said, taking a deep breath. “It’s weird, because he’s your husband but you feel nervous about seeing him.”

It wasn’t much different on the three red-white-and-blue buses hauling close to 130 Marines from the Portland International Jetport – where they were welcomed by Gov. Paul LePage – to their final destination, the unit’s new training base at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The 40-minute ride, with an escort of roughly 20 police cruisers, seemed to take forever, Marines said.

An estimated 300 family members and well-wishers fanned out in the training center’s parking lot, their voices rising in anticipation of the homecoming of Company A, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

The Marines spent seven months training Afghan police and army units basic patrol and security techniques.

“He just texted that I’m going to see him in three minutes” squeaked Kristin Crowley of Bath, whose husband was on a bus.

A cheer went up as the buses pulled in and the Marines, almost impossible to distinguish from one another in their desert fatigues, filed out.

“There’s Gabe! I see him! I see him,” yelled his father, Michael Millard. “His ears gave him away.”

Sixty yards of crisp, Maine night air separated the crowd from the disciplined Marines, standing in neat lines with their hands clasped, feet apart.

Maj. Matt Dilullo, the company commander, turned to face the ranks. He barked one final booming order over the growing din of the expectant crowd, the plume of his breath lit by the lights of television crews.

“Dismissed!”

The Marines’ neat lines melted as they advanced toward the surging crowd and were enveloped by loved ones.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” said Lance Cpl. John Crowley Jr. of Bath. “It’s been a long time waiting for this. I’m just glad to be home with my family.”

Cpl. Andrew Arseneault of Blue Hill hoisted his 17-month-old daughter, Arianna. Her mom, Jasmine, had bought a sign saying, “My daddy owes me 295 kisses,” one for each day Alpha company was away.

“No matter how much communication you have with home, it’s very easy to forget what real life is like,” said Cpl. Arseneault, working off his debt.

Sgt. Kurt Fegan, a Falmouth police officer, has now served three overseas deployments, the first two in Iraq and this last one in eastern Afghanistan. He said the training mission required a lot of patience, but it was worth it.

“It’s not the infantryman’s dream job, stuck inside the wire and training the Afghans. It’s what’s going to get us out of that country,” he said. “That’s the main goal.”

Wednesday night was for reunions and thankfulness.

Maj. Dilullo, the company commander, said his overriding emotion was simple: “Brought them all home.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at [email protected]


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