Marine Battalion Taking 3rd Tour to Iraq

Times Staff Writer

In the predawn chill of Saturday morning, Anna Plank of Huntington Beach was here to see her 21-year-old son, Marine Cpl. Jason Plank, begin the trip back to Iraq for his third tour of duty.

The waiting and worrying never get easier for the families of Marines, particularly those of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, which has a reputation for drawing the most dangerous of assignments.

“You pray a lot and you stay busy, and you wait for those phone calls and letters to arrive,” Anna Plank said.


But there is something else that family members pray never arrives: an official car with an officer or senior enlisted man, possibly accompanied by a chaplain. That’s how the Marine Corps notifies families that a loved one has been killed.

“During his last deployment, I saw an official car in the neighborhood, and I immediately ran upstairs and closed the door as if that could stop it,” said Plank, a tear on her cheek at the memory. “But it wasn’t that, thank God.”

Among the hundreds of family members who gathered to see 300 Marines and sailors board buses that would take them to a nearby airport, fear of the “knock on the door” was a shared experience.

“I remember one day an officer came to our office complex and my heart stopped; it just stopped,” said Julie Galaviz of Whittier, whose son, Lance Cpl. Joshua Tallis, 21, is returning to Iraq for a third tour.

The 3-5, as it is known, is the first battalion from Camp Pendleton to depart for Iraq as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force begins to relieve troops from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in violence-plagued Al Anbar province west of Baghdad.

In 2003, three Marines from the battalion were killed in Iraq. In 2004, 19 were killed, most in the November fight to wrest control of Fallouja from the insurgents. The 3-5 was one of the lead units in the assault.


Now the battalion is returning to Fallouja for a seven-month deployment to help train Iraqi security forces, although that assignment could change if U.S. commanders order an assault on insurgent strongholds.

An estimated two-thirds of the battalion’s 1,000 Marines have made at least one deployment to Iraq. Like the Marines, family members have developed strategies for survival.

“You need to surround yourself with friends and family, and stay focused,” said Lauren Maricic, 23, of Ontario whose boyfriend, Cpl. Miles Nelson, 21, is returning for a third tour.

“And the friends and family members have to be ready to get a phone call at 2 o’clock in the morning if you need support,” she said.

Anna Goad, 23, of Irvine and her husband, Cpl. Michael Goad, 25, were sharing a last hug as the buses rolled into sight and Marines began grabbing their rifles. Sergeants began barking orders, and the tears and tension among family members increased.

“Everybody is afraid of the knock on the door,” Anna Goad said. “But it’s absolutely not going to happen to us. I know that.”


Donna Meyers, 72, and her husband, A.J., 76, drove from their home in Riverbank, Calif., near Modesto, to say goodbye to their grandson Rich, making his third tour. She wears his picture on a chain around her neck.

“We lost one boy from his group last time, and it was hard, real hard,” Donna Meyers said. “Rich met his mother.”

On Thursday night, Tallis’ family met at his grandmother’s house in Pico Rivera for a dinner with his favorite foods: barbecued ribs, rice pilaf, scalloped potatoes, strawberry ice cream and more.

On Friday, Tallis visited with the family priest at St. Bruno’s Catholic Church in Whittier for a blessing.

Hayley Lynn, 18, of La Crescenta married Lance Cpl. Chad Lynn, 19, on Tuesday at a chapel in Las Vegas. As his departure to Iraq for his first tour grew closer, she extracted a promise.

“He promised me that he wouldn’t die,” she said.