When Tony Frais landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport this week, he planned to make the most of his four days in Toledo.
There was family to spend time with and friends to see. And there were all those people who prayed for his safe return during his seven-month deployment in Iraq.
And then he thought of Wesley Kincaid, his childhood friend and fellow Marine. The two joined the Marines together in August, 2003, and went through boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., at the same time. But Lance Cpl. Frais reported to Camp Pendleton in California and Lance Cpl. Kincaid was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It had been months since they had been in touch.
Corporal Frais heard his friend was sent to Iraq during the same seven months he was there. And he heard his friend was back in town.
"I wasn't expecting to hear from him, although I was happy when he called," said Corporal Kincaid, 19, home for a three-week leave. "I knew he went over there. I didn't know where."
The two met yesterday at the recruiting station on South Reynolds Road where they enlisted. They had plenty to share. The last time they saw one another was August, and it had been ages since they met as youngsters at the now-closed St. Jude Catholic School.
They didn't go to high school together - Corporal Frais was a 2002 graduate of Central Catholic High School; Corporal Kincaid graduated a year later from Rogers High School. But together they decided to see what challenges they could face. They chose what they were told was the toughest of the military branches.
"The war wasn't a deterrent. I felt like I knew what I was getting into," Corporal Frais, 20, said.
Similar to their base assignments in the United States, the two were stationed in Iraq hundreds of miles apart. Corporal Frais was an entry-point guard in Fallujah; Corporal Kincaid was assigned to checkpoints on Iraq's borders with Syria and Jordan.
Each knew the other was in the war-torn country. Each knew the other was feeling the bitter cold of the Iraqi winter nights. Each knew the other faced danger. They just didn't know where.
Corporal Frais lived among the people of Fallujah. He and other members of his battalion lived in the homes of Iraqi families, paying them for a place to stay. When he received candy from home, he handed it out to the children in the streets. One boy, a 14-year-old, would practice his English with him.
But friendly children and helpful residents weren't the only people he encountered. Nineteen of his fellow Marines were killed during his time abroad. Across the country, Corporal Kincaid was forced to deal with the death of two comrades.
"We can mourn them, but we also have a job to do," Corporal Frais said. "If you try to sit there and mourn, you put yourself and others in danger."
The frequent calls home from Iraq let both men's mothers know their sons were all right.
Virginia Frais, who lost her husband just months before her son went to boot camp, said her prayers were answered.
Charlene McClellan said she felt a weight being lifted when she saw Corporal Kincaid and hugged him for the first time in months. "I felt lighter," she said.
Both men say they plan on leaving the military when their four-year commitment is up. The two feel good about their work. "They like us being over there. They wanted us to be there, as a matter of fact," Corporal Kincaid said.
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