CAMP THUNDER, Iraq -- Sergeant Maj. John E. Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, paid a visit to more than 50 Marines from various units throughout Regimental Combat Team 7 Aug. 18, giving thanks for a job well done.
Estrada, 48, of Washington, D.C., was unable to visit with the commandant of the Marine Corps nearly a month ago. However, he took this opportunity to tell the group about future efforts and plans to make deployments easier and answered Marines' questions.
"We're going to do everything in our power to get those Marines who've missed out on coming here the chance," Estrada said. "That's what Marines do. They fight, and I know those Marines who haven't been here yet want to come."
The reenlistment rate has far surpassed other services, according to Estrada. He passed on his thanks to the Marines here.
"I wanted an opportunity to look you all in the eyes and say, 'thank you,'" Estrada said. "The commandant and I have bragging rights now because of you. It takes a special breed to do what we do. Being an all volunteer force just proves my point."
Estrada reminded them of what they've accomplished over the past year.
"You all have helped free nearly 25 million people," he said. "Because of your efforts and sacrifice the world is a safer place."
The constantly-traveling senior enlisted man in the Marine Corps promised he'd make every effort to visit Marines serving in a combat environment.
"I will continue to visit Marines out here until the last group leaves," Estrada said. "This is where it's at. This is what being a Marines is all about."
The visit imbued many Marines with renewed confidence in what they came here to do.
"It was great that he would come to see us," said Lance Cpl. Donald J. Hall, 18, an administrative clerk with RCT-7's Headquarters Company. "I know he has a lot on his plate being the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, so it was nice."
Hall was one of two Marines who received a coin from Estrada in recognition for their hard work.
"It was unexpected," said Hall, of Thomasville, Ga. "This is going to be one of those memories I'll never forget."
The experience was just as memorable for others in the crowd.
"It was very motivating," said Lance Cpl. Kendall L. Dawson, 20, a motor transportation operator with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, from Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Seeing him and meeting him in person made me want to strive to get were he is."
Throughout Estrada's speech, he emphasized one thing: his tremendous pride in the work they've accomplished and continue to do.
"I will not stand up here and lie to you," Estrada said. "But if anything, know that the commandant and I are very proud of you."