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Community welcomes home commander

By Marti Gatlin | | August 4, 2011

Hugs and handshakes from family, friends, Marines and civilian-Marines welcomed home the Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward) commander during a reception in Building 3700, July 26.

Lt. Col. Roni A. Meyerhoff returned from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan, July 19, and Supply Management Center members greeted him a week later with a patriotic gathering complete with red, white and blue decorations and refreshments.

Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command; Michael A. Williamson, director, SMC, Logistics Command; and CWO5 Robert L. Canady Jr., inventory management specialist, SMC, provided remarks.

Hudson noted his service in Afghanistan overlapped with Meyerhoff’s for several months.

During March 2010 to March 2011, Hudson served as the commanding general, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), the Logistics Combat Element for I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)/North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Command (SW), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

“Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward) is an extension of us here and (he was) an extension of the commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command,” Hudson said.
The commanding general also praised Meyerhoff’s leadership abilities.

“He and the Marines he led represented this command exceedingly well in a very difficult situation in a very difficult time, forward deployed,” Hudson said. “As many of you may know, we were able to expand the battle space up into the northeast of Helmand Province and places that we had not been ... we pushed ground combat troops up forward and we pushed logistics capabilities up forward as well. This man, on your behalf, enabled us to do that, and particularly, enabled us to push logistics capabilities up north. Welcome home and congratulations on a job well done.”

Williamson welcomed Meyerhoff back and thanked him for his service.

Meyerhoff said he was humbled by the reception and thanked everyone, to include his family, for their support while he was gone.

“I can’t tell you how darn proud I am of the Marines and contractors (who) served with me,” he said. “I asked a lot, you gave more. I thank those (who) when asked, whether it was a weekend, a holiday or off hours, came through even with a phone call or whatever it was we requested without hesitation.”

“What this lifestyle asks the families to do is just priceless,” Meyerhoff added. “They’ve hung in there and they continue to hang in there for the last 21 years.”

Meyerhoff worked with more than 150 Marines and contractors spread throughout Kuwait and Afghanistan. Headquartered at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Meyerhoff discussed the duties they were responsible for.

Those areas included supply - the caretakers for critical combat replacement equipment that had to be ready for issue when the warfighter required it; maintenance - the maintainers for keeping the equipment in good order and facilitating an in-theater sustainment program by working with other organizations to make sure gear could be refurbished and refreshed forward in Afghanistan - extending the life of the equipment for another two years; distribution - facilitating in-theater movement of critical supplies and equipment; and retrograde - the specialists for sending equipment from Afghanistan back to the U.S., he said.

“What we were doing out there is very similar to what, in a manner of speaking, goes on here,” Meyerhoff said.

The lieutenant colonel not only related milestones that occurred in Afghanistan, such as standing up the  in-theater sustainment program, beginning to set the stage for advanced retrograde operations, seeing an increase in personnel and enduring extreme weather conditions, but also talked about some he celebrated with his family.

The tight-knit family gathered around him while Meyerhoff spoke about the separation. Even though he was on another continent, Meyerhoff celebrated his 17th anniversary with his wife, Lori; his daughter, Lauren’s first dance and his son, Dustin’s 13th birthday as well as holidays.

“As a Marine you’re there to do a job. I would say my time over there went by fast with the exception of the last three weeks ... starting to think of home,” the Hartford, Conn., native said. “I missed all the simple things. I missed the coffee in the morning with my wife on the porch listening to the hummingbirds fight each other for nectar. I missed the interaction with my kids. I missed all the milestones in their lives. I missed my black lab and our daughter’s cat. I missed a good steak.”

The family lives in Kennesaw, Ga., north of Atlanta, and Lori described being apart from her husband as not easy. She cited one instance where multi-tasking got the better of her.

The children were not home. She was mowing the grass and trying to cook dinner at the same time. Water boiled out of the pot that was cooking chicken. She heard the fire alarm. 

The house filled with smoke. She opened the windows, got the animals out and wound up scrubbing all the kitchen cabinets to get the smell out.

“It’s awesome to have him home,” the Kinston, N.C., native said. “Although the six months went by quickly, being apart is never easy.”
Lori also depicted her 17th wedding anniversary surprise.

“He, from Afghanistan, planned this elaborate, huge surprise,” she said. “He knew his mother and father and I (and the kids) were going out to dinner at this really nice fancy restaurant. He had arranged a beautiful flower arrangement to be put in the center of the table. He arranged the location of where we were going to be sitting at the restaurant. He arranged a spa treatment for me at a hotel.”
Meyerhoff detailed all of his arrangements in a note in an envelope that was on the table along with the flowers. He accomplished most of the surprise through phone calls once he got the numbers.

 “I’ve got to go back and thank a lot of people (who) helped me, not just that time, but at other moments,” he said.

Lori said her husband was expecting an e-mail back from her the next day about what a wonderful surprise it was.

“I got him back,” she said. “On our way back from the restaurant, we concocted this plan that we were going to tell Roni that somehow the restaurant burned down. So when I got home I got on the e-mail and the words just flowed out. The way I wrote the letter it was so convincingly good he believed it. After he read the e-mail, I got a phone call from him. I let him talk a little bit and I said, ‘Roni, gotcha!’ It was the most wonderful night I could have asked for after him being deployed.”

Lauren, who will be attending ninth grade at Harrison High School in Kennesaw soon, said she gave her dad “a big hug and a smile” when she saw him at the airport.

“I can’t get away with what I used to do when he was gone,” the 14-year-old said. “I have to get used to the rules now that he’s back. I missed his jokes, his sarcasm.”

Lauren said she helped keep her dad’s spirits up while he was gone through e-mails and tried to keep in contact with him as much as she could because she was busy with friends and school.
“We didn’t get to see him for six months and I really missed him,” Dustin said. “I’m his little buddy. I missed his hugs.”

The Lost Mountain Middle School, Kennesaw, Ga., soon-to-be eighth grader talked about a video birthday message his dad sent him during his band concert at his school for his birthday, March 10.
“I wasn’t there because I was in the bathroom and I missed it,” Dustin said. “Everyone was looking for me. Then I came in and they replayed it when the whole concert ended.”

Meyerhoff said he had a U.S. flag that was flown in Afghanistan for the Lost Mountain Middle School principal, who has since retired, and for the band director, who helped him with the birthday message.

To reconnect with one another, the family plans to stay in a cabin in Helen, Ga., and spend quality time together.