Jones family has enlisted children home for rare reunion

Published 2:05 am Sunday, January 23, 2011

Richard and Marsha Jones had a rare opportunity this weekend. The couple were surrounded by all of their children and grand-children; something that rarely happens since two of their children are active duty enlisted and one married to someone who is.

The happy occasion marked the return of 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Garrett Jones from his deployment on the USS Peleliu, stationed in Pakistan, with his unit, MEU 15 Marine Explosive Unit, where he worked on helicopter engines.

Joining Garrett were his sisters: E-5 Kasy Castro, with her children Dillon and Dennon; Kesha Jarrell, with her children Macy and Camryn; and his long-time friend (with brother status) Chad McDowell with his wife, Amy. Chad lived with Garrett for the last few years of high school after his home flooded during Katrina. Completing the family gathering were grandparents J.D. and Evelyn Jones. The only members of the family that were missing were E-6 Milton “Nicky” Jarrell (now active in the reserves and on Drill Weekend with his unit) and E-6 Erik Castro, the deployed husband of Kasy.

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There were many stories told at the gathering about how you keep your family bond strong when you are half way round the world from each other. Unfortunately, just as the interview started, 7-year-old Dennon Castro had a bicycle accident and appeared to have broken his arm. Grandma Marsha and mom Kasy were off in a flash to the emergency room with him and were constantly in phone contact with the family left at home. Communication seems to play a big part in this family and it was obvious that they remain involved no matter where they are located. 

Kesha Jarrell said, “It is true that the separation from your loved ones is the hardest part of this experience. When I had my girls (Macy and Camryn), in Arkansas, my family was in a different state and it was hard. You can’t just drive home and see your family anytime you want.”

Amy McDowell said, “The hardest part is definitely being away from my family. I miss being near them.”

Kasy Castro said, “Seeing the kids having to adjust to our constantly changing lifestyle is the hardest part for me.”

Family photos are e-mailed and the family “Skype” a lot, especially the brother and sisters.

Richard Jones said, “Garrett got to watch the nieces and nephews open their Christmas presents through Skype. The girls set it up. He couldn’t be physically with us but he didn’t have to miss out on all of the fun. It was great to have him be part of Christmas with us.”

Richard Jones proudly displayed the framed flag that Garrett had flown for him overseas.

“You know, both Kesha and Kasy were Homecoming Queens at Hancock High. Kasy was also Prom Queen. I would have never believed that they would have ended up being part of our armed forces community. I am a former Marine, so I guess they grew up understanding the commitment it takes from everyone in the family. Then when Garrett up and decided that he wanted to be a Marine like me, what could I say?!”

“Can you tell that Marsha and I are proud of our kids?” he asked.

In a week the family will go their separate ways. Kasy and the boys will go back to Keesler AFB; Chad and Amy McDowell will return to Minot, N.D., where he is stationed; and Garrett will returning to California.

Kesha and Nicky Jarrell now live in Carriere with their girls.

Kesha said, “We just thought the girls deserved to grow up with their grandparents like I did when I was little. It is nice to have them experience my mom and dad as grandparents. They have their great-grandparents too so it is a double blessing.”

It may be a while before this get together will happens again so the group soaked up every moment that they could. Love, communication, and support seems to be the secret of this family’s closeness despite the miles that separate them.

Update: Kasy Castro reports that fortunately, Dennon just had deep bruising in his arm and a busted nose. He is doing fine; she was scared to death and thankful that it wasn’t anything more serious. So are we.