Happy Holidays from Operation Supply Drop!

The first time a service member is away from a family holiday, event, or tradition is definitely the hardest. The typical dinner, presents, and laughter are sorely missed but in time, one learns how to get through these momentous occasions, even though the heartache still remains.

I’m sure we all have our one occasion missed that started the ball rolling. Some are definitely tougher than others. A missed anniversary, the death of a loved one, the birth of a newborn, a birthday, or simply just a holiday. Regardless of the importance or lack thereof, missing the first one is always the hardest and the one that sticks with us the longest.

For me, it was Christmas. In August 2002, I was deployed as an infantryman with 3rd Platoon (DET Platoon), Charlie Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Second Marine Division. We were attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) at the time and headed out on a Mediterranean deployment (Med Float). Our deployment was to last six months (it ended up lasting 9 due to the initiation of Iraqi Freedom) and the plan was to conduct police actions in Kosovo, and conduct training operations in Djibouti and United Arab Emirates. While I did miss out on some family members birthday’s the first couple of months, it wasn’t until December loomed large that I began to feel the desire to be back home with family and friends.

Christmas Day was a pretty big day for my family and I. My father would wake up early and make a hearty breakfast that consisted of bacon, eggs, grits, and biscuits. My mother would bake cinnamon rolls and have a large pot of coffee going. The house would smell delicious before the sun even rose. After exchanging gifts, the cooking would continue throughout the day with a huge spiral ham, baked potatoes, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, and much more. By the end of the night, after filling our bellies and testing out all the new gifts we received, my parents, brother, sister, and I would be exhausted from all the running around and eating.

Fast forward a year later and here I was sitting in the middle of the Arabian Sea on the USS Tortuga. Talk about a complete 180! Initially, as the day kicked off, I was a bit bummed that I wasn’t back home doing the things I loved so much on Christmas Day. But, once I began to open my eyes and take in what I had around me, I realized that while I may not have what I had back home, I had a new way of experiencing holidays. My family was now my Marine Corps brothers that I shared a berthing area with on the ship.

That Christmas day, the mess deck crew decorated the chow hall, the food was upgraded a notch, and a festive
atmosphere permeated throughout the ship. In our sleeping quarters, we all gathered around as we opened long awaited care packages. Later on, we’d gather around one of the 2 portable TVs and Nintendo 64’s some of the guys received and played Golden Eye, taunting each other, and trying our best to be the person to beat.

By the end of the night, I lay in my rack looking back at the day’s events and realized that I had a new way of experiencing occasions. My military family, while not the same as my relatives, was just as close. We all shared the same desire to be back home but we also realized that the men to our left and right were our extended family. And being able to enjoy the day with my brothers made me realize I didn’t need to look at big holidays with a sense of dread or sorrow. From that day forward, I looked forward to spending holidays, special occasions, and big events with my fellow Marines because I could take comfort knowing I was surrounded by family.

For those who are deployed this holiday season, everyone at Operation Supply Drop thanks you for your service and the sacrifice you are making. Hopefully, you can take comfort in sharing the next few days with your fellow service members and enjoy the supply drops coming your way. Happy Holidays!