Reunion warmed Christmas for Lewisburg family

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Lewisburg man enjoyed a less than routine visit this Christmas when his son-in-law was in town on leave from the U.S. Marines.

"This is actually the first time in four years that I've been home for Christmas," Gunnery Sgt. Blair Rohling said the day before he had to travel back to Camp Lejeune last week.

Rohling, his six-year-old son, James, and the boy's grandfather, Jim Lockwood, were on Lewisburg's public square to help the boy fulfill a requirement for his work in a Cub Scout pack.

Grandfather Lockwood moved to Marshall County from the northeast to be closer to one of his daughters.

James Rohling is a student at Clyde Irwin School near Jacksonville, N.C. His father is originally from Middle Tennessee. He graduated from Father Ryan High School in Nashville, and studied aerospace engineering at MTSU in Murfreesboro before deciding college wasn't for him, so he joined the Marines.

Blair Rohling returned to the states in April after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Previously, he was deployed to Iraq. He's in an intelligence unit, but he's seen his share of combat.

"My worst experience was when two of my buddies got killed in Afghanistan," he said. "They weren't killed at the same time."

Rohling and his friends were in different parts of the same province and he saw one of the men "being loaded on a C-130 to fly off to his final destination."

During their visit at the newspaper office, James Rohling was asked if he'd like to be in the military. The six-year-old boy replied by shaking his head to say no.

Blair Rohling wouldn't talk about what he does, explaining, "I go do what I'm told to do."

Asked if he wanted to discuss WikiLeaks, the Internet Web site that's made public thousands of classified diplomatic communiqués, Blair Rohling replied "No," but he had a couple of comments.

The soldier who obtained the confidential communiqués had a security clearance. Blair Rohling does, too.

"I probably have the same access, and some more than what he had," the gunnery sergeant said.

"What ever that kid has coming to him, he deserves," Blair Rohling said.

The Marine also declined to speak about the two wars, but Lockwood spoke his mind.

"It's a war that we should be in," Lockwood said. "It's a lot easier to fight the war over there, instead of here...

"Just look at 9/11," he said. "If we don't fight the war there, eventually it will come here."

Lockwood was in the U.S. Army as the war in Vietnam was winding down. He served two and a half years in Germany.

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Lockwood said, "The taxes on a fixed income are pretty bad and the weather is pretty bad. There's six months of winter."

One of his daughters, Tracy Syzperski, opened Ladies Workout Express in Columbia, so Lockwood and his wife, Cynthia, moved to Paradise Drive on the northwest side of Lewisburg. Then Tracy's husband, Walter, was transferred to Washington, D.C., for his job with IBM. The Lockwoods stayed here.

Now, Sgt. Rohling has 16 years in the Marines.

"I'll stay at least my 20," he said. "I don't have very much more to go.

"I'm sure we'll come back here" to Tennessee, he said, not knowing what line of work he will pursue then.

Now, he's stationed at Camp Lejeune. His three consecutive tours of duty overseas have prompted his superiors to decide he should remain stateside for a while.