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U.S. Marines celebrate Easter Sunday in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province

16 Apr 2006 | Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin

Half a world away from families and friends back in the United States, thousands of U.S. Marines, sailors and other servicemembers spent Easter Sunday in a combat zone here.

At this airbase in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province, church services on the holiday which celebrates Christ’s resurrection served as a small break from daily operations and seven-day work weeks for U.S. servicemembers here.

For Christians, Easter Sunday is a chance to “renew baptismal promises,” according to Lt. Cmdr. John T. Hannigan, a Catholic Priest and military chaplain for Regimental Combat Team 7 here.

Though liturgy is celebrated the same here as it is back in the States, worship in Iraq for America’s military men and women allows for a more “focused” experience, according to Hannigan.

“Since many times we don’t have the religious supplies here that we are used to having for religious services back in the States, we make do with what we have and the symbolism seems to come out ,” said Hannigan, a native of Chicago.

“It all seems holier because I am a couple hundred miles away from where Jesus walked the earth,” said Cpl. David M. Jeske, a 21-year-old from Auburndale, Wis.

Jeske, an ammunition chief for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, RCT-7, attended Easter Sunday services at his unit’s remote base in the middle of Al Anbar’s barren desert – Camp Korean Village. 

While some forward operating bases offered Easter Sunday services for U.S. servicemembers today, those stationed in more remote locations in western Al Anbar Province will have full Easter services throughout the week, said Hannigan.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christopher M. Jack, a medical officer for the Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite at the Marines’ base in Al Qa’im near the Syrian border, is missing out on two special days with his family back in California – Easter Sunday, and his son’s fourth birthday, which is tomorrow.

“I've been thinking about my wife and son the entire time,” said Jack, a 34-year-old from Joplin, Mo. “My thoughts are with them now."

More than 23,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are currently deployed in Al Anbar Province. 

RCT-7 – a Marine infantry regiment based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. – is responsible for providing security to and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces in the roughly 30,000 square miles of western Al Anbar, stretching from just west of the Euphrates River to the Jordanian and Syrian borders.

Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: goodwinjm@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil