Christmas Deployment Starts Obama's Afghanistan Surge

Emotional farewell at Camp Jejeune for wives, kids and mothers.

ByABC News
December 16, 2009, 12:36 PM

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. Dec. 16, 2009— -- Tearful mothers, wives and children watched in the nighttime darkness the first U.S. troops to deploy as part of President Obama's surge board buses that would take them to their flight for southern Afghanistan.

For many, the hardest sound was that of the buses pulling up. With the sigh of the bus brakes comes a sinking feeling that the moment has arrived. The moment, so close to Christmas, is especially poignant with those who have children.

"I wish they were getting off instead of getting on," one mother said.

In a nighttime chill, older Marines huddled with their families. Some couples exchange nervous banter, others stood silently, undoubtedly aware these Marines would be entering some of the most difficult and deadly fighting of the Afghan campaign.

Lance Corporal Brian Griffin, 20, of Georgia stood alone. "I'm a little nervous," he said. "It's my first time going."

In the eyes of these deploying troops of the 1st Battalion 6th Marines can be seen a mix of confidence and fear, nervousness, apprehension, and perhaps above all an assurance that their training will carry them through.

About half the Marines in 1st Battalion 6th Marines have been in combat, but the unit's executive officer Major Heath Henderson told us they're ready.

"They've been well briefed, well trained. They're ready to go," Henderson said.

These Marines seem generally aware they're leading the surge, and Obama's new strategy to blunt the Taliban, build the Afghan Army and begin leaving by 2011, but to those who have deployed before it's just another trip to war.

"Last one was a good experience," said Staff Sgt. Sean Young, who is on his way to his third trip to a war zone. "Hopefully this one will be just as well and then come back and get a little time with my family again."

His wife, Mary, and their two young kids will be waiting. "As they get older it gets harder," she said. "They still don't understand, but they know that daddy's leaving."

For Sgt. David Blea, 26, of South Bend, Ind., it's yet another good-bye. He's off to the war zone for the fourth time. He has spent the bulk of his adult life at war.