FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan (Nov. 23, 2012) – Marines with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, were in the holiday spirit this Thanksgiving.
Thousands of miles from their loved ones, the Marines traded gathering with their friends and families for spending time with their brothers and sisters in arms.
“It’s hard for Marines to be away from home this time of year,” said Sgt. Corey Branner, logistics and supply chief with the battalion.
For Thanksgiving, the dining facility at Forward Operating Base Geronimo served a special menu for the Marines. They ate turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie. All their holiday favorites were available. It was a welcome boost of morale at a time when many Marines miss their families the most.
“It’s nice having a Thanksgiving Day meal rather than a (Meal, Ready-to-Eat),” said Branner, from Chicago. “It helps the mindset of being away from home. A lot of these guys make groups of close friends in the Marine Corps, and today we are able to talk about more than Afghanistan, FOB Geronimo and work.”
Marines often refer to one another as brothers and sisters, and for deployed Marines during the holidays, that saying holds true.
“They realize we are also their family,” said Cpl. Justin Burns, warehouse noncommissioned officer with the battalion. “They turn to their brother to the left and right of them and say, ‘You are my family, let’s go eat dinner.’”
With the familiar Thanksgiving Day smells of turkey and gravy wafting through the air, the Marines joked and shared stories. With the television playing sports in the background, it gave some Marines a familiar aura while deployed to another country.
“I believe being away from their family for the holidays gives the Marines something to bond over,” said Cpl. James Smoak, warehouse chief with the battalion. “No one wants to be away from their family, but I look forward to the camaraderie and spending time with my fellow Marines.”
This is Smoak’s fourth deployment and each deployment was during the holiday season. He is accustom to not being home for Thanksgiving and said his family supports him.
“My family understands this is my job,” said Smoak, from Icard, N.C. “This is what I do, and this is the profession that I chose.”
Unlike Smoak, many of the Marines are on their first deployment to Afghanistan, and first away from their families and friends.
“We have a young battalion and some good senior leadership,” said Branner. “I think the first time being away from home will be a humbling experience for them.”
The new Marines had a welcomed surprise when they arrived at the mess hall. The decorations and Thanksgiving Day menu helped boost morale.“I don’t think a lot of guys expected the mess hall to be decorated,” said Burns, from Fort Worth, Texas. “They had banners, cutouts and happy Thanksgiving signs everywhere. It was really set up nice. They did a really great job for us.”
The meal meant more to the new Marines than a different menu. In a country where holidays are still workdays, the pumpkin pie, turkey and camaraderie helped bring the Marines with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, closer together as a family.