UBAYDI, Iraq --
Snowstorms and sleigh bells were replaced by sandstorms and radio chatter here this holiday season.
Marines with Task Force 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 strung lights and hung stockings to remind themselves of home during the time usually spent with family celebrating holiday traditions.
Even though the Marines are away from families, a full schedule and camaraderie with other Marines have made it easier to cope with the distance.
“To be honest, (the command) keep us pretty busy. I didn’t even realize it was Christmas Eve until about noon today,” said Lance Cpl. Deriek P. Tullock, 20, a driver with Combined Anti-Armor Team White, Weapons Company, TF 3rd Bn, 7th Marines, from Boone, Iowa. “It’s good because you don’t think about what you’re missing out on back home.”
The holiday spirit could be seen everywhere on base. Trees were decorated with ornaments, and candy canes inside of offices and stockings were hung from bedposts. Even the chow hall was adorned with festive decorations for the holiday meal that was served Christmas Day.
“We talk about the holidays, we talk about family and things of that nature, but we generally don’t miss it in the sense that they would because we have each other,” said 1st Sgt. Elvis Tate, 37, company first sergeant for Headquarters and Service Co., TF 3rd Bn, 7th Marines. “We laugh, we joke, we tell stories about the TV shows that we watched and the food we ate (back home). It’s not a lonesome feeling. We actually get a lot of joy out of it.”
Satellite phones, phone centers and e-mail provide an easily accessible means of communication for Marines who want to stay connected to their friends and families back home during the holidays.
“Everybody takes the holidays as a time to reflect with loved ones,” said Sgt. Joe M. Allen, 29, an assistant log chief with H&S Co. from Duluth, Minn., who has two children and a wife in the United States. “I understand it’s difficult on both ends. I call, I talk to the kids, but they don’t understand phones yet. It’s hard for us as well as (the families), but as long as there is communication, there is a way to get by.”
By sharing a bond with each other normally reserved for close family members and childhood friends, the Marines have been able to support one another throughout the holiday season.