JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — In this town, where nearly everyone wears a Marine uniform or has a friend or family member in the corps, people seemed relieved Tuesday that President Barack Obama had decided to increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan.
"Get it over with and bring 'em home," said Nellie Matson, who's retired from the Marine Corps, along with her husband and son-in-law, all of whom live in Jacksonville. Matson said all three would watch the president's address Tuesday night to hear him say he'd send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, the first of them Marines from Camp Lejeune, to try to bring the Taliban-led insurgency under control.
"We're hoping he's going to say, 'Enough's enough. This is what we're going to do, and then we're going to bring our men and women home,' " Matson said.
"If that's what it's gonna take, then let's do it and get it over with," she said. "If we're not going to get it over with, then let's bring 'em home now, say we lost and forget about it. We're losing too many of our people there."
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Lejeune already has about 10,000 Marines in Afghanistan, and the base is expected to play a large role in the buildup, though Master Sgt. Keith Milks, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, said units wouldn't know who was going or when until deployment orders arrived.
"We're in a constant state of readiness and have Marines trained and ready to go," Milks said.
Lance Cpl. Jack Marcuzzo is ready; when he was sent to Lejeune after basic training, he said, he was told he could expect to deploy right away. That was 10 months ago, and he's still preparing meals for the chow hall on base. He'd rather be cooking for Marines at an operating base in Afghanistan, where he'd get extra pay. He earns less than $20,000 a year now.
"A six-month deployment would mean about eight to 10 thousand dollars," said Marcuzzo, who's 28. "That would let me pay off my car. I've been hounding my command to get deployed, and it really doesn't matter where they send me."
Marcuzzo said he heard other Marines talking about possible deployment to Afghanistan as they came through the chow line or sat at tables in the dining room. Though their jobs would put them in greater danger than his would, Marcuzzo said, most were enthusiastic about the chance to use their training.
"For every unit it's different," Marcuzzo said. "For me, I joined to do things I haven't done, to travel, to see the world. So far, I've only seen the U.S."
Lance Cpl. Joseph Elliott, 21, just got back to Lejeune two days ago after six months in Afghanistan with the Marines' 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He said those serving in Afghanistan would welcome the help Obama had promised.
"We needed more troops," said Elliott, who was in southern Helmand province. He said he thought that 30,000 would be enough to make a difference in the war.
Joseph Kaczynski, 19, an airman first class in the Air Force who was visiting family in Jacksonville on Tuesday, said he favored a troop buildup in Afghanistan.
But mostly, he said, "I'm just glad (the president) made a decision. With the economy and the other distractions, it just seemed like the troops were being forgotten about. I wanted to know he cared and that he had his head in the game."
Kaczynski, who's based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., will deploy in February to do military security. He couldn't say where.
"I'm ready to go," he said.
(Quillin reports for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.)
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