Local family sends a son back to war; parents are proud, but worried
Seattle Times staff reporter
For as long as they could, the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Job watched him move through the lines snaking up to a security gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Just before, his grandmother had bent close, whispering a prayer. His mother hugged him, fighting back tears. His father gave him a quick embrace and shook his hand. His sister and an uncle smiled through wet eyes.
Display monitors gave no clue why the 20-year-old in a blue-and-red rugby shirt should have been getting all this attention Wednesday morning. They noted simply that Alaska Airlines Flight 556 would leave gate D9 at 9:30 for San Diego.
But the flight that returned Job (pronounced "Jobe") to Camp Pendleton after a nine-day "pre-deployment leave" was just the first step in a journey that will take him back to Iraq, and the war he left last September.
"I just told him I love him and to be careful," said the Marine's mother, Debbie Job, 46.
Her son's departure means not just a return of the worry and stress she felt in his five months in Iraq last year, but a struggle to assess the danger he may face there now.
"I can't decide if it won't be as bad as because we've been through this before — or if it makes it worse because I know what he's up against and see how bad it is." She vacillates depending on the latest news headlines.
Late next week, Job's 2,200-member 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit will leave San Diego by ship for Iraq, a journey that could take about a month. At least half of those Marines have already fought in Iraq and are making a return visit, said Lt. Carrie Batson, spokeswoman for the unit.
"At some point, I expected I would return to Iraq," said Job. "I didn't know it would be this soon."
Job's unit is part of a 10,000-person Iraq deployment — a redeployment for many if not most involved — approved earlier this month by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. About half of those being sent are Marines and half are Army members, with some National Guard and Reserve units included.
In recent months, news of Marine casualties has been far more common than in the early stages of the conflict. Debbie Job, who has made acquaintances with many Marine mothers via support groups on the Internet, regularly checks a Defense Department Web page identifying the dead.
"I just get sick to my stomach scrolling down to see if it's a name I know," she said. "But I do it because I have to know."
The angst she endures and expects, of course, has not diminished her pride in her young Marine.
She mentions the promotion he'll get to corporal next month, stressing that it was based on merit, not length of service. She notes that earlier this year he was named "Marine of the Quarter" for his battalion. And she has framed the "Meritorious Mast" certificate he received from his battalion commander, which cites his skills and leadership as a machine-gun team leader in Iraq.
Eric Job, 52, Aaron's father, is also comparing his current feelings to those he held as the war began in March 2003. "I don't think we have the same fear of chemical and biological weapons, but we don't know what's going to happen with all these uprisings ... fighting a guerrilla war is much more dangerous than facing massed troops."
A supporter of the military and a Vietnam veteran himself, Eric Job said, "I just wish there was a clear exit strategy. I think we may need to be there (in Iraq) for 10 years or more."
Aaron Job, a 2002 graduate of Sammamish's Skyline High School, signed up with the Marines before his senior year, agreeing to enter boot camp shortly after graduation. He is a member of C "Charlie" Company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.
Although his battalion was at the forefront of the invasion of Iraq and encountered heavy firefights on the way to Baghdad, its casualties were minimal. The battalion lost four men in Iraq, none from Job's company.
Interviewed at his parents' home last week, Job said despite the dangers, "I'm anxious to get back. The Marines that I know all really want to go back. We want to be useful."
Part of his feelings stem from the fact that another Marine battalion, headquartered in the same part of Camp Pendleton as his, has suffered numerous fatalities near Fallujah this year.
"Those are a lot of guys that we know. They're our brothers," he said. "I'm not saying it's like I want revenge, but I don't feel right about being anywhere else but where they are."
The Jobs have another son in the military. Ryan Job, 23, is in training as a Navy Seal, also near San Diego. The brothers, who've always been close friends, have had time to hang out and draw support from one another.
On a 19-hour drive home for Mother's Day, they took turns at the wheel of the 1996 Honda Civic that Aaron purchased for $5,000 when he returned from Iraq last fall. The car, now with 126,000 miles on it, is staying with his parents during his deployment.
Ryan flew back to San Diego just after Mother's Day. Aaron was allowed a longer leave because of his impending deployment. There's no official word on how long Aaron's unit will be in Iraq. A news release carried the familiar military language: "the duration ... is currently undetermined."
The Jobs' third child, Kelsie, 16, was also at the airport for the goodbye. While Aaron was away last year, she wore one of his extra dog tags around her neck, and plans to put it back on now.
Just as it was time for Aaron to get into line yesterday, his grandmother, Barbara McCormick of Sammamish, pulled him aside and bowed her head in prayer. Afterward, she voiced the faith and hope that have carried this family through difficult times.
"God brought him back safely once," she said. "He can do it again."
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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