CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- It was an emotional day for loved ones as a group of more than 2,000 Marines and sailors departed Camp Pendleton Thursday for a deployment in the Middle East.
Goodbyes are always hard, especially when you are six years old.
"I'm sad that he has to go deploy," said young Joey Lejeune.
Joey said goodbye to his dad, Marine Learlin Lejeune.
"My dad [is] always strong for me, so I don't have to be strong," Joey added.
Lejeune is a tough Marine, but he is also a caring husband and father.
"Sometimes he does my mom's chores for her," Joey told 10News.
Joey's dad also makes time to cook for the kids. Joey said he didn’t want to say his dad was the best cook because he did not want to hurt his mom's feelings.
In the meantime, mom will need to sharpen her video game skills since that is Joey's favorite thing to do with his dad.
"We're both on the same team, so we both fight the bad guys, so we always win," Joey said.
He knows there are real bad guys that his dad needs to deal with. Lejeune and 2,300 Marines and sailors with the SPMAGTF-CR-CC are headed for the Middle East. When dangers flare up, their air and ground forces will be ready to respond.
"[I] wanted to follow in the family footsteps," Lejeune said.
Being a Marine is in his blood. Lt. Gen. John Lejeune was his great-great uncle. Camp Lejeune was named after him because he is considered the greatest of all Leathernecks. He was a hero in Learlin's eyes.
"He was an incredible Marine," Lejeune said. "As well as an incredible father and husband."
Joey's favorite superhero is his dad.
"My dad is strong and he fights for our country," Joey said.
Dad asked Joey to do one thing -- "My dad told me to be a strong hero for our whole family," Joey explained.
It will not be easy. His younger brother started crying when the buses pulled away, and Joey put his arm around him.
In those moments, it was clear that another Lejeune learned to be strong.
"I want to be a Marine like my father," Joey said.