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    Service members celebrate Thanksgiving at sea

    Service members celebrate Thanksgiving at sea

    Photo By Sgt. Austin Long | (From left to right) U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Phillip Billiot, the sergeant major...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Austin Long 

    26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)     

    GULF OF ADEN – Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG) embarked aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24) celebrated Thanksgiving Day in the Gulf of Aden, while forward deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations, Nov. 26, 2015.

    Service men and women are currently deployed to the area in support of 5th Fleet maritime security operations.

    The Thanksgiving dinner began with a blessing of the food by U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Todd Mallory, the chaplain with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 26th, MEU, followed by a turkey cutting ceremony performed by U.S. Navy Capt. Sean Bailey, the commanding officer of the USS Arlington with the KSGARG and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Daniel Coleman, the commander of troops aboard the USS Arlington with the 26th MEU.

    Before cutting the turkey Capt. Bailey and Lt. Col. Coleman each shared their thanks for the Sailors and Marines aboard the ship, what they do to accomplish the mission on a daily basis, and thanked the families who support the service members while forward deployed, allowing them to focus on completing the task at hand, to Marines and Sailors gathered.

    “Today what weighed on me the most was the turkey cutting ceremony and what it symbolized,” said Sgt. Maj. Phillip Billiot, the sergeant major of CLB-26, embarked aboard the USS Arlington. “When the two commanders cut the turkey together it symbolized the unity that we have on the ship. We are truly grateful for everything that we accomplish together and it really means something.”

    Following the turkey cutting ceremony, a traditional holiday meal was served to Sailors and Marines by officers and senior staff non-commissioned officers.

    All of the food was prepared aboard ship by food service personnel who worked on preparing the meal beginning early in the morning.

    For many of the Marines aboard the USS Arlington this was their first Thanksgiving while forward deployed. Rather than taking time to be with family and relax, daily operations continued as a normal day. The day paused momentarily for those aboard to take time to reflect on the holiday’s meaning and gather together to share a Thanksgiving meal.

    “This is my first Thanksgiving deployed, but not my first one away from home,” said Cpl. Stephen Lasalle, the postal non-commissioned officer in charge with the 26th MEU, embarked aboard the USS Arlington. “The difference with this Thanksgiving versus the other is that I do not have the immediate capability to communicate with my family back home. I am very close to my family and not being able to communicate with them on this holiday that we annually come together on makes me reflect on what I have back home and makes me more thankful for my family and for what I am doing. Thankfully, the Marines and Sailors aboard the ship have become a family to me.”

    For others, this wasn’t their first time being forward deployed during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean the holiday was any easier to handle.

    “In my 23 years in the Marine Corps, I have now celebrated five Thanksgivings away from home,” said Billiot. “The more times you are separated from your loved ones does not get easier, but you learn what to expect. For many of the Marines and Sailors on the USS Arlington this is their first time, but we take care of each other. So it is important they rely on those to the left and right of them when this is weighing heavily on their shoulders. Any words of wisdom that I would have for a Marine who is experiencing this for the first time would be to reflect on what you appreciate in regards to your family and your service to your country. Utilize the Marines to the left and right of you during this time and all will be well.”



    Date Taken: 11.26.2015
    Date Posted: 11.28.2015 06:20
    Story ID: 183032

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