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Combat doesn't stop Lejeune's patriots

5 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

The thought of sweet, buttered corn on the cob for an Independence Day celebration was so real, Sgt. Erick C. Yates thought he was dreaming when he smelled it.  There was no way he'd be chomping down on an ear in the middle of Iraq standing a post far from his base camp. 

That was until he saw a humvee pull up.  That's when he saw he wasn't imagining anything. 

The rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment celebrated America's Independence Day with barbecued steak, corn and baked beans right next to his post.  The battalion sent out a little slice of home to their Marines pulling duty on posts outside the base camp when their Independence Day meals were delivered to them in the field.

"We'd just got done with a hard day's work and all of the sudden this humvee pulls up with all this good chow inside," said Yates, a 30-year-old from Cleveland. 

Yates and his Marines braved temperatures breaking 110 degrees that day.  The possibility of such a good meal finding them was too much to hope for, Yates said.

"Hot steaks at the end of the day...  It doesn't get any better than that," he added.

The Marines didn't get to celebrate the fourth with the traditional fireworks.  The food sufficed for most of them.

"The only fireworks we're having here are the ones in the grills," said Gunnery Sgt. James D. Santiago, the battalion's mess chief.  "Our goal today is to bring a little bit of the fourth to the Marines here," said Santiago, 38, from Bronx, N.Y.  "Back on Lejeune most people have gone home and are grilling in their backyards today.  The Marines here deserve the same thing for what they're doing."

Nine grills were burning throughout the day to provide the battalion with 800 steaks, 1,000 burgers and 500 hot dogs.  A portion of that was set aside for the Marines in the field.

"Gunny Santiago always sends the best chow to the guys in the field.  It's an incredible morale booster for the Marines out there," said Sgt. Julio C. Aguilar, a 28-year-old from Houghson, Calif. 

Still, not all went as planned.  In the excitement of supplying his Marines with hot chow, trays were forgotten.  The Marines here are used to adapting and overcoming, though. 

"All they had to see was that we had steaks for them to start inventing plates out of MRE sleeves, plastic bottles, anything that would hold food," Aguilar said.

The humvees also came bearing fruit juice, plastic flatware, beef jerky, trail mix and blocks of ice.  All were welcome deliveries to the Marines.

"It's great to see the looks on all their faces when we serve them all this good food," said Pfc. Adam C. Haynes, an 18-year-old rifleman from Stuaro, Va. "It's not a normal Fourth of July, but we're glad for whatever we can get."