It’s easy to think of our military as just another “department” of our government or to conjure of images of men and women in their fatigues serving in outposts that most of us couldn’t spell let alone find on a map. But these are “real people”—sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters—serving us and our country. Let’s put some faces to some who are supporting our American efforts over in Afghanistan.
Last Christmas, Choclatique adopted the marines of SOTF-81 from Camp Pendleton, California, deployed to eastern Afghanistan near Herat. The good news is that they are all coming home in the next month or so. The bad news is they have to be extremely careful as the first and last month of deployment are the riskiest times to be “in country.”
Over the last several months, one of our marines (name withheld by request) has shared with us some insights (nothing of a secure nature, of course) that you never seem to hear about on the mainstream or cable news programs. I wonder how many of us could endure for a day what they must live with for months on end.
Early in their deployment their cots were replaced with some makeshift beds. The odd thing was the springs in the beds were positioned sideways. So, instead of getting an up-and-down motion when they sat on the bed, they’d get thrown out of bed when they rolled over in the middle of the night.
The food is pretty standard fare, but a lot of it is fried (maybe Mrs. Obama could focus some attention on military meals, too?). They miss the fresh fruit and all of California’s healthful foods such as avocados, which are a rarity.
The camp was built from the ground up in 2009. The base is small and their unit provides for all of their necessities, but not much in the way of luxuries. And believe me, what they have come to consider a “luxury”, we would consider a necessity. Occasionally, they get to travel to one of the other larger bases which have an actual Exchange with restaurants like Burger King or a Pizza Hut, along with other long missed American items.
The weather in Afghanistan is about as dangerous as the bad guys. In late January, they were exposed to about 120 days of winds that blew every day like a bad nor’easter (not that there’s a good nor’easter). Most of the camp has heating and air conditioning, so even when it does snow or is 120º, they manage to keep relatively comfortable. Of course, all bets are off when they’re out on patrol and exposed to the natural elements of Afghanistan.
Young Americans make friends easily and these Marines feel blessed that the locals have taken kindly to them. The locals are mostly friendly and the Marines see the waves from children as they pass by in the streets. This brings smiles to their faces. It’s described as a 100% experience—50% because they feel like they’re making a difference in Herat and 50% because it reminds them of their homes with neighbors waving as they drive by. Of course, there is a “bad” for every “good.” They must always remain vigilant because the enemy will also have a smiling face right up until they attack. It is very hard not to become complacent.
Our US Marines are serving in a country that is very dusty, rocky, and at high elevations. The water, even though clean and drinkable, has a taste that won’t be forgotten for years to come. They have been working side by side with Special Forces and have told us that as Marines, it has been a pleasure to work with them.
One thing for sure is that no matter what the news reports tell us here at home, these soldiers cover one another’s backs and always feel safe because of the Marines’ special bond. They have told us that the great training they received back in the states and the quality of men and women with whom they are serving gives them confidence to know that they’ll all come home to their loved ones safe and sound.
These volunteers really love their jobs, but one thing they have learned is “the most important thing you can do is to cling on to 3 or 4 memories which you are willing to die for to get back to the states safely. And thankfully, Choclatique Chocolates have become one of the 4 memories which we have that brings us back to what we know is waiting for us.” We are humbled to play a small part in supporting these brave Marines.
Please say a prayer for their safe return and thank them for their service.