03/28/2008 02:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Marine Regiment First To Serve 5th Tour In Iraq

Reymundo Parra has already served two tours in Iraq, and he has two Purple Hearts to show for it.

Parra is a Navy hospital corpsman, a sailor who works as a medic in Marine infantry units. He could have gotten out of the Navy, or found a way to avoid another trip to the place they call "the Sandbox."

But no.

Parra was one of about 170 Marines and corpsmen who boarded buses Tuesday in a parking lot at the sprawling Marine base at Twentynine Palms, on their way to Iraq.

"It's true; I volunteered for this," Parra said before departure. "My wife hates me for it."

It's not uncommon to find troops like Parra, who have been to Iraq two, three or four times. What is remarkable about this deployment is that his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is the first unit in the Marine Corps to be sent to Iraq five times.

"Someone else will hit that magical number soon," said Lt. Col. William Vistead, commanding officer of the 1,000 troops that make up the battalion. "But it keeps the Marines motivated to know they're the first."

The battalion was among the entire 1st Marine Division that participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They were the Marines who pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein, an act that essentially marked the end of the battle for Baghdad. During its first four tours, it lost nearly two dozen men.

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