It was a day filled with fanfare. However, for the family of the honoree it was much more. It also meant that a husband, father and grandfather is coming home.
Friday a special ceremony was held for Marine First Sergeant Ronny Rowland. With more than two decades of military service, this day marked his retirement.
"I have mixed emotions because it's been my life for 20 plus something years."
However, now First Sergeant Rowland says it's time to focus on another very important part of his life, his family.
"I have been married 27 years and I have deprived my wife long enough."
For the last three years First Sergeant Rowland served at NAS Meridian during the week and drove home to Arkansas every weekend. With this and past deployments, family members say many might not realize the sacrifices of soldiers and their families.
"Raising children yourself," says Nancy Rowland. "Many sleepless nights. Scared! You're scared when the phone rings or scared when someone knocks on the door. It's pretty tough."
Alabama native, First Sergeant Michael Chapple, is taking over for Rowland at the base's Marine Aviation Squadron. He and his wife Camilla say with almost eight moves in 18 years, they know all too well about the sacrifices.
"Missed birthdays, plays in school, medical appointments, things of that nature," says First Sergeant Chapple. "I've even gone overseas a couple of times without my family. It's tough."
Tough but not impossible. Both couples agree that it's strong communication, love and support which truly has kept some and is keeping others forging forth.
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