Lt. James Wende (right) with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, keeps a watchful eye on his Marines while on patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Lt. James Wende, pictured on patrol in Helmand province, says he feels like a senior looking at the freshman class as he concludes his deployment in Afghanistan and hands over the territory to newly arrived Marines. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson approaches Patrol Base Lakhari in southern Helmand province. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Marines from an explosive ordnance disposal team detonate a homemade explosive device, which was discovered near a compound outside of their base. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Vicki and Tom Apsey speak to their son, Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Apsey, who is serving in southern Afghanistan. Catherine Welch for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Catherine Welch for NPR

First Sgt. Derrick Mays stands beneath the company colors outside of a tent at Camp Leatherneck in June. An 18-year Marine Corps veteran, Mays says his wife, Marcia, has a way of tolerating the long deployments. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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