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    Marines and Sailors celebrate Christmas aboard the USS Arlington (LPD-24)

    Marines and Sailors receive supplies and mail on Christmas day

    Photo By Sgt. Austin Long | Gulf of Aden – A U.S. Navy Sailor with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Austin Long 

    26th Marine Expeditionary Unit     

    GULF OF ADEN - Service members embarked aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) celebrated the Christmas holidays while forward deployed in the 5th Fleet area of operations in the Gulf of Aden, Dec. 24, 2015.

    Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Sailors with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG), came together to celebrate the holidays while aboard the USS Arlington to share a Christmas dinner as a family.

    The KSGARG and 26th MEU are forward deployed in support of maritime security operations in the area.

    For Sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington, Christmas day kicked off with a replenishment-at-sea; a resupply of fuel, food, and delivery of mail.

    Although a strenuous task to complete, the service members found joy in the work, focusing on the gratitude they had for the packages they received from loved ones back home.

    Prior to the day, service members aboard ship got in to the holiday spirit by decorating doors to living quarters, participating in church choirs, attending holiday services, and gathering together during social events hosted by the ship’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation staff.

    “During this time of year people want to do more, because of the Christmas atmosphere,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Todd Mallory, the chaplain with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 26th MEU. “I’m hoping this gives people an opportunity to develop fellowship and relationships past the Christmas holidays. So many people are used to going to holiday services with families back home and we’ve been able to accommodate that by adding more services into the schedule than we would normally perform throughout the week.”

    Along with the holiday services, the religious leaders aboard ship provided Sailors and Marines an opportunity to read a children’s story to their kids through the United through Reading program. This program gives service members a chance to be a part of their family’s holiday by sending a video of he or she reading a story back home.

    “A majority of families are reading more around the holiday times to their kids,” said Mallory. “We want the kids to have videos of their parent reading holiday books and children’s bible stories in order to still be a part of the family holiday. When you watch people come out of the room after they get through reading, you can tell they’ve enjoyed the opportunity to read to their kids even though it’s over video.”

    Bonding amongst the Sailors and Marines was led by the staff non-commissioned and commissioned officers who served the junior enlisted service members Christmas dinner. This allowed the enlisted Marines and Sailors the opportunity to take a break from their daily tasks to come together and spend time thinking of loved ones back home.

    The dinner consisted of turkey, ham, shrimp, mashed potatoes and gravy, green peas, sweet potatoes, stuffing, various pies, and other varieties of food prepared by Marine Corps and Navy food service specialists .

    “It’s always tough being forward deployed during the holidays, but knowing that we are part of a bigger purpose by being out here, makes it worth it," said Maj. Brooke Speers, the executive officer of CLB-26. "It seems like Christmas is bringing everyone together a little more than usual and that everyone is using the time off to celebrate the holiday. It’s a good feeling knowing that everyone out here is rooting for one another and coming together as a family.”

    For some of the service members aboard ship, this is their first time experiencing Christmas away from family.

    “This is my first time being deployed during Christmas,” said Cpl. Paul Ortega, a cyber-networking specialists with CLB-26. “It’s difficult, because I’m missing my daughter’s first Christmas. I try to be a part of it as much as possible through emails and phone calls back home, but it’s not the same. Thankfully though, the Marines aboard ship have become like a family away from family and it makes things a little easier. It helps having them by your side when you’re trying to maintain the holiday spirit.”

    The Sailors and Marines are able to rely upon one another to get through the challenging time away from family back home; especially during the holiday season.

    “It’s a great opportunity for us to enjoy our time with our family at sea,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Sean Bailey, the commanding officer of the USS Arlington (LPD 24). “The team work that we have aboard the Arlington between the Sailors and Marines is really what makes us strong and helps us to succeed. The RAS we completed today is a prime example of how smoothly things go when we continue to work together. We’re doing great on deployment and I look forward to getting everyone back home safely so we can all enjoy next Christmas with our families.”



    Date Taken: 12.25.2015
    Date Posted: 12.27.2015 05:03
    Story ID: 185328
    Location: GULF OF ADEN

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