Marcus Tarzian, a 2006 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is greeted by his mother, Talina Tarzian, on Aug. 21 at Camp Pendleton in California after returning from a tour in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. Talina Tarzian and Mark Tarzian, Marcus' father, own and operate the Windemere Landscape & Garden Center in Steamboat. Marcus Tarzian will arrive in Steamboat on Sept. 20.

Dean Smith/Courtesy

Marcus Tarzian, a 2006 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is greeted by his mother, Talina Tarzian, on Aug. 21 at Camp Pendleton in California after returning from a tour in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. Talina Tarzian and Mark Tarzian, Marcus' father, own and operate the Windemere Landscape & Garden Center in Steamboat. Marcus Tarzian will arrive in Steamboat on Sept. 20.

Local Marine back on safe ground after tour in Iraq

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— Two local parents are breathing easier after the safe return of their son, Lance Cpl. Marcus Tarzian, from a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

Tarzian, 21, graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2006 and serves in the U.S. Marine Corps. His father, Mark Tarzian, said Marcus is in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Fox Company, 1st Platoon, stationed at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego. He left for Iraq in late January and returned to Camp Pendleton with about 400 other soldiers in a homecoming event Aug. 21.

His mother, Talina Tarzian, welcomed him off the bus in a scene she described Friday as "very joyful."

"There were families, there were newborn babies, grandmothers and grandfathers," she said of the emotional homecoming, filled with cheering and happy tears from soldiers' friends and loved ones. "It was a really, really good experience."

Talina, a co-owner of Windemere Landscape & Garden Center in Steamboat Springs, said it took about two hours for all the soldiers to disembark - and her son was near the end of the line.

"I was very patient - it was hard to wait," she said. "It was nice, though, to see other family members connect with their sons, or fathers, or husbands."

As soon as she saw Marcus, she gave him a hug - then she leaned back and pinched his cheeks with both hands.

"It was just something that I wanted to do," Talina said. "I was anxious to see him and grab his cheeks."

She said she has made that gesture for years with her son, partly because she knows it bugs him. Talina laughed when asked if the gesture embarrassed Marcus at the homecoming, in front of his fellow Marines.

"Oh, yes, it did," Talina said. "But I'm his mom and I don't care, so it doesn't matter."

'Not a kid anymore'

Mark Tarzian, also a co-owner of Windemere, said he saw Marcus about a week ago at Camp Pendleton. His son was an incredibly welcome sight after the stress of the past seven months, Mark said.

"It was very difficult. : We really didn't know what he was doing because his job assignment didn't let him disclose to us where he was or what he was doing - so there was never a feeling like he's over here, or he's over there," Mark said, explaining that Marcus' duties were in intelligence.

Mark said every Sunday morning he would watch "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on ABC for the "In Memoriam" segment that listed the names of fallen soldiers.

"You do things like that because you don't know," Mark said Friday. "We didn't know where he was, so we figured if something happened, it would show up on Sunday morning : that was always a difficult last five minutes of the show."

While Mark said he avidly read Web sites and kept track of the news for events in Iraq, Talina said she chose not to look.

"No news. Didn't want to know. Didn't want to watch it," Talina said. "I stayed away from watching the news or reading about it."

Talina said she communicated with Marcus via e-mail every couple of weeks, and had three phone calls with him during the seven months.

"It was really hard not knowing if he was OK, if he was safe," she said.

Marcus has plans for his time off.

Mark said his son leaves Sunday for a trip to Europe with friends, and Talina said Marcus will then arrive in Steamboat on Sept. 20. After about a week at home - including a camping trip - it's back to Camp Pendleton. He could be deployed to Afghanistan in about a year, his parents said.

Mark said serving in the Marine Corps has changed his son.

"He's a fabulous young man and it's made a huge difference in his maturity and his responsibility," Mark said. "He talks and writes in complete sentences rather than mumbling. He looks at you in the eye when he talks to you - he's not a kid anymore."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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