When Lt. Jason Cutter returned to Westbrook for the first time in more than a year, he was not expecting the homecoming he got.

Seeing his name plastered on business signs up and down Main Street, Cutter didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“I don’t feel like I deserve it,” said the humble Marine. “I’m just doing my job.”

A first lieutenant in the 1st Battalion 10th Marines, Cutter was deployed to Iraq last September and was stationed in the al-Anbar province for seven months.

Among Cutter’s duties while in Iraq were maintaining equipment and protecting and guarding the work spaces. He said one of the things that surprised him was just how many people were working there, as well as how safe he felt – even if his family didn’t always believe him.

Though he returned to his training camp in North Carolina in April, he hadn’t seen his family since being deployed until he landed in Portland last week.

“I missed the cool, crisp air of Maine,” he said about what struck him first when he arrived in the state.

Though Cutter was home for less than a week, he made sure to take a trip to L.L.Bean, spend some time in the woods and spend a lot of time with family and friends before returning to North Carolina with his wife, Stephanie, of Waterville.

Cutter graduated from Westbrook High School in 2002 and went on to study mechanical engineering while in the ROTC program at the University of Maine, where he met his future wife, a nursing student.

Jason and Stephanie Cutter were married last July, but haven’t gotten to spend much time together as husband and wife. While he was deployed, they communicated through phone, e-mail and sometimes videoconferencing when “we actually had enough bandwidth to see each other,” Stephanie Cutter said.

She would also send her husband care packages with treats like chocolate and beef jerky – food that got gobbled up as soon as it arrived and could sustain the trip – unlike her husband’s favorite, sushi, which was the first meal he had when he returned to the states.

Holidays were the hardest for both Cutter’s wife and his family in Westbrook.

“I still think about it and I cry,” said Cutter’s mother, Anna Cutter. She almost canceled her annual Christmas party, but her son insisted the tradition go on without him.

Though the Marine was on the minds of all the guests throughout the celebration, he said, on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was better for him to stay focused on his job.

“If you think about it too much, you’ll start missing home,” he said.

And that was Cutter’s mentality throughout his tour. Without a wife to hurry home to at 5 o’clock every day or other family obligations to think about, he said, he spent his days working hard – when he wasn’t goofing off with the guys.

“I love the people I work with. I have friends for life,” he said.

Cutter’s family said they couldn’t be more proud of him, but they hope he sticks around the country for a while. However, if it was his choice, he’d at least get another chance to get back in the action.

“I’m having too much fun to stop now,” he said.

Welcome back, Cutter – Marine visits home after tour in IraqWelcome back, Cutter – Marine visits home after tour in Iraq

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