News: No holiday breaks for Marine mechanics in Iraq
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq - It's the Fourth of July in Iraq.
By 9 a.m. the wind has picked up and the powder-fine sand it carries causes the Marines to squint their eyes. Besides the dull rumble from diesel-engine powered generators and trucks, the day is quiet, almost empty.
The mechanics of Combat Logistics Regiment 15's Maintenance Company aren't celebrating today's holiday with barbecues and fireworks like many of their families are at home.
The popular consensus is that it's no different than any other day here as they repair the heavy equipment and vehicles used to transport a steady stream of supplies to fellow Marines throughout the Al Anbar Province.
Instead of dwelling on what they may be missing out on back home these Marines, part of the 1st Marine Logistics Group, stay focused on their mission.
"I try to think about work when I'm at work," said 21-year-old Cpl. Christopher A. Huysman as he scraped a gasket from a humvee's intake manifold.
The Sugarland, Texas, native plans on watching a movie after dinner and jokes that the closest thing to fireworks around here are flares.
Other mechanics relate their service to the original fight for America's independence.
"It's just a reminder of the freedoms that we have and the price that was paid for them," said Cpl. Aracely Carter as she disassembled a hydraulic cylinder.
Back home in Los Angeles, the 25-year-old heavy equipment mechanic said she would be grocery shopping right about now for the afternoon's festivities.
Instead of getting some guacamole, she's fixing a forklift.
When asked if they have any special plans for tonight, brisk "nopes" and drawn-out "naahs" are common. A few Marines say 'sleep."
"A lot of them wish they could be home for the 4th of July," said Sgt. Hasaan A. Denson, 25, from Macon, Ga., "but they understand they're supporting other Marines and helping build up Iraqi Security Forces so we can get outta here."
For Lance Cpl. Gafatasi Napoleon, Independence Day means spending time with his ohana, or family, back home on the small island of Pahoa, Hawaii at his grandmother's house.
Practically every generation of his family was raised in his grandmother's home and that is where they reunite.
This year Napoleon, 19, is celebrating the holiday by replacing a brake control valve on a giant hydraulic system used to move 40-foot containers, but he's okay with that, he said.
"I actually have a couple of Iraqi friends I met in church," said Napoleon. "I'm glad I'm here to help them because they can't help themselves yet."
Instead of steaks and roast chicken, these mechanics settled for burritos and omelets when they ate breakfast together after starting their graveyard shift last night.
"We're doing what we can with what we have," said Lance Cpl. Daniel M. Richitt, 20, from Fairfax, Va.
The late shift ends at noon when their replacements will pick up where they leave off and work into the night until they are relieved on July 5th.
With operations continuing 24 hours a day in Iraq there's no time for holiday breaks for Marines like the ones of Maintenance Company.
"We have to keep these trucks up. Marines are depending on us, and that's what really matters out here," said Denson.