MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The late summer sun sets high in the crystal blue sky as it sparkled off New River like white diamonds drifting aimlessly in the water toward a barefooted man fishing contently on North Carolina’s foamy shoreline.
Every other minute or so, a white and black ‘GOT-CHA’ lure swiftly sailed through the air breaking the water-currents’ rhythmic pattern with its short, pencil frame and six sharp golden-hooks.
With each cast Cpl. Justin T. Norton, a data network specialist with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, could hear mumbled voices of children, teens and adults banter with one another as they stood, surrounded by a fair-ground atmosphere with colorful inflatable gym systems like a moon bounce, a giant slide and a dunk tank, which he helped set up earlier that morning.
Several Marines like Norton, spent much of the morning ensuring that the unit’s family day held aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 19, 2010, at Hospital Point Recreational Area went as smooth as possible for its Marines and family members.
“My wife and three children couldn’t be a part of today’s affair, but I still took a personal interest in making sure that things were set up in a pleasing manner,” said Norton, the Delta, Colo., native, who deployed with the unit in 2009. “Plus this gives me an excuse to go fishing with a couple guys from work.”
Norton added that this family day isn’t just for Marines’ spouses and children, it’s also for the brothers and sisters serving within the unit while competing in several intramural sports as well.
“Prior to the event, we solicited single Marines from the unit to participate in the competitive sports portion of the family day,” said the unit’s family readiness officer, Frank Smith, a former Marine from Salem, S.C. “We had the Single Marine Program attend to coordinate the volleyball, dodge ball, and tug of war competitions.”
Smith also added that program officials passed out T-shirts and gifts to contest winners.
While a MEU is deployed, the family readiness officer is the liaison between the unit and its family members, scheduling several spouse and family-oriented get-togethers and parties to show morale support for their deployed counterparts.
“The family readiness program is a combat multiplier for the unit,” said the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Commanding Officer, Col. Eric J. Steidl, and Denver native. “The family readiness officer put together a large packet of information for the families, showing them what to expect in the upcoming months.”
Steidl added that he wants the Marines to know that there is a MEU family support-team out there for those who need it.
As the MEU says hello to several new Marines and their family members, it also prepares to bid farewell to those servicemembers and spouses, who have both served many, faithful years.
“This could very well be our last 22nd MEU function in the Lejeune area,” said Dayna Paszkiet, a military spouse family readiness volunteer whose husband deployed with the unit three times. “It’s always good to catch up with old friends and meet new ones at these gatherings. Even though we are not sure where [his] career will take us, we had a good run with the MEU and neither one of us will forget the people we’ve met.”
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is considered a scalable, multipurpose force and consists of more than 2,200 Marines and sailors. Commanded by Col. Eric J. Steidl, it will consist of a ground combat element, an aviation combat element, a logistics combat element and its command element upon composite this year.