GRAY - With a moment of silence for one lost Marine, members of Lima Company Third Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Marine Corps Reserves returned to Gray Saturday afternoon from their deployment in Iraq.
More than 250 family, friends and well-wishers crowded into the compound of the Armed Forces Reserve Center next to the Appalachian Fairgrounds for the return of the 50 troops.
Also waiting for the Marines were several infants who had not yet met their fathers.
Darlene Thurman of Harriman, who was eagerly anticipating the return of her 18-year-old son, Steven, said the company had a rough time in Iraq, where they moved from area to area, doing house-to-house searches with their sister unit from First Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.
The Marines were bused to the Reserve Center on Saturday with an escort from the Rolling Thunder motorcycle club and a contingent of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Like the members of Rolling Thunder, some people in the crowd showed up even though they didn't know any of the returning Marines personally - they just wanted to show their appreciation to the whole unit.
Members of Chapter 979 of the Vietnam Veterans of America were on hand, as were Greeneville natives Hazel Ricker and her daughter, Margaret Freshour. Ricker, who lost a brother in World War II, and said she had come out with her daughter in 2004 to welcome troops home. She also said she had done the same back when soldiers returned to Greene County from Vietnam.
Lance Cpl. Jonathan Thornberry of Floyd County, Ky., was killed in October 2006 in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. Thornberry was Lima Company's only lost man, and there were no other serious injuries during the deployment, said Maj. Steven Bickford, Lima's inspector-instructor and commanding officer.