News: Thai, U.S. Marines break bread on sacred Buddhist temple grounds
Story by Lance Cpl. Stephen Himes
BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand – Wearing nothing but an orange sheet intricately wrapped around himself, a Buddhist monk sweeps the dead leaves from around a tree.
Off to the side of the temple, Royal Thai Marines rush hurriedly as they set the table with food for their guests.
Royal Thai Marines hosted a dinner for U.S. Marines Feb. 15 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.
“When we train in this area and there isn’t enough room for everyone, some of our Marines stay here,” said Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Kajohnpol Samsen, a rifleman with 3rd Company, 7th Battalion of the Royal Thai Marine Corps. “The monks here know most of us and see us frequently. It’s a blessing to have this location available and to be able to host U.S. Marines for dinner here.”
Buddhist Temples are the generally the cultural center of the local town, according to 1st Lt. Breandan McPartland, a platoon commander with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. The monks will host various markets and will never turn away someone in need of a place to sleep and eat.
The Thai Marines provided an array of food and beverages native to the Kingdom of Thailand.
“The food really opened my eyes to the country,” said Staff Sgt. Krystofer M. Rivers, an air-support net operator with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. “The way they combined various flavors, along with how they limit the mixing of food to preserve the flavor. It was quite an enlightening experience to learn more about their culture.”
Cultural differences about food are not all that the U.S. Marines learned about the country. Their military counterparts also educated them on Buddhism, the primary religion in the region.
“The monks will chant at night,” said Samsen. “They are doing a few things. They are praising Buddha or they are asking for forgiveness for their day's transgressions.”
The conversation carried throughout the night from group to group. Every group had a something in common. At several points throughout the night, the Marines talked about their experiences in the military.
Some of the Thai Marines are true war heroes, according to McPartland. The Thais are fighting a heavy insurgent war in the southern areas of Thailand and the stories they told were similar to experiences that U.S. Marines have from Afghanistan and Iraq.
During a night of food and festivities, it was hard for the two Marine units to separate.
“I was extremely thankful for the dinner we had with the U.S. Marines,” said Samsen. “Training is the best way to be prepared to fight alongside each other. But to really bond, we need moments like these, outside of the uniform. I hope to be able to experience this again.”