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Not Home for the Holidays

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Over many years, Thanksgiving has become a holiday where friends and family get together to continue the ongoing tradition of sitting around a big dinner table, eating turkey and watching football games on TV. Although this is a typical scene throughout America, the true meaning of the holiday still shines through as grace is said before that first bite of turkey, stuffing, or honey-baked ham.

For some military members and their families, this scene may be only an illusion that they can only dream about because of their constant deployments and being assigned to a duty station that may be thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

“The most important thing on holidays is definitely being with family,” said Cpl. Josh S. Wartchow, squad leader, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “I was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, a few Thanksgivings ago, and we had a guy make us a big dinner with Jambalaya and a lot of other food,”

Wartchow said that even though they had a large dinner, it still wasn’t as good as it would have been had had his Thanksgiving meal back home with his family.

“I haven’t gotten to do the whole big dinner with a turkey and stuffing in a long time,” admitted Wartchow, a Doylestown, Pa. native. “That really doesn’t matter to me though, just being with my wife this Thanksgiving is going to be better than anything. The big feast is just a plus.”

Those who celebrate Thanksgiving give thanks to a number of different things during this holiday — mostly to friends and family.

“While I was deployed to Afghanistan we had no way of buying or getting hygiene gear or any personal supplies, so we pretty much depended upon people back home to send us the supplies we needed,” said 1st Lt. Justin M. Bellman, commanding officer, Weapons Company, 3/3. “The letters and packages would always boost morale for the Marines, so I think we were all thankful for that.”

Bellman said that when his Marines received mail, they always seemed to be in better spirits and when they received these packages from family and friends; they always remembered to thank them, in prayer.

“Whenever it was my turn to say grace, I would usually give thanks to God for putting me on this earth,” said Cpl. Steve Mercer, fire team leader, Lima Company, 3/3. “My parents are also always on the top of my list — I mean, without them I wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

For many Marines, the holiday season is the worst time to be deployed or away from family and can be a lonely and stressful time.

“I really get homesick when the holidays roll around, and I know I’m so far away from everyone,” said Cpl. Anthony Moran, fire team leader, Lima Company, 3/3. “It’s just not the same as it used to be when I was a kid.”

Mercer said he remembers times when he would be around a table with his whole family, spending quality time together.

“We must have had a ton of food on the table, and I would eat it so fast that I could barely taste anything going down,” said Wartchow. “After we ate our feast — that seemed like it would never end — I immediately wanted to take a nap when we were through, but would usually watch football with the family.”

Wartchow said that his favorite Thanksgiving Day dish was the turkey and stuffing.

“There’s so many different ways we would have turkey, it was never the same,” said Wartchow. “So pretty much being with all my friends and family and then having an awesome meal is what Thanksgiving is all about. Being with family is awesome, and I think people should cherish those times with them, because if they ever get deployed or sent somewhere they won’t be able to have those times anymore then they will regret not taking advantage of them.”

Bellman said, after deployment he is always grateful to make it home safe and in one piece without being injured.

“We were lucky and only had two casualties in our company, so we’re thankful that we didn’t have more,” said Bellman. “There were many situations where a lot more of our Marines could’ve been injured or killed, which leads me to believe that someone a lot higher than us was looking over us to make sure America’s Battalion came home safe.”

Above information courtesy of USMC

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