News: Marines, sailors of ‘America’s Battalion’ celebrate Christmas in Afghanistan
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELHI, Helmand province, Afghanistan — At work a world away from home, the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment celebrated Christmas in Afghanistan, Dec. 25.
Last year, they celebrated the holiday with family and friends shortly after returning from a deployment to Helmand province’s Nawa district. This Christmas morning, much like every morning of their seven-month deployment, they donned their uniforms, tied their boots and began another workday.
Long before the sun rose, Cpl. Angel Cabrera awoke to video call his girlfriend and family, grateful for the chance to connect with them for the holiday.
“I’m thankful to be here with my Marines and still have the chance to talk to my girlfriend and family,” said Cabrera, a 24-year-old administrative specialist with Headquarters and Service Company, 3/3, from Amsterdam, N.Y. “Marines at our other bases don’t necessarily have the ability to call or Skype with their families over Christmas.”
Cabrera then began his tasks for the day — creating and organizing official paperwork for Marines to be promoted and roving around the base on guard duty. His work was the same as most days, as were his feelings about missing his girlfriend of 11 months.
“Being separated from her for seven months is the hardest part of the deployment,” said Cabrera of his second combat tour. “But this is my job and I need to be out here to serve my country. As long as I do what I need to and stay busy, today is another day down … one day closer to being home.”
A building over, Sgt. Joseph Bussanich began his day in the battalion’s data section, surrounded by Christmas lights, a wreath and a small stack of presents from his girlfriend. Over a phone call, he opened the presents so she could hear his reaction.
As he does every day, the 23-year-old assistant data chief from Tuscumbia, Ala., helped his Marines trouble-shoot data problems, processed paperwork and worked to maintain the battalion’s communication networks.
Once daylight faded to evening, their festivities began. Together with his Marines, Bussanich enjoyed a Christmas dinner and watched “The Christmas Story.” While it was tough being apart from his girlfriend and family over the holiday, he said he was thankful to celebrate it with his tightly knit section of Marines.
“Since we’re deployed, we celebrated with the family we’ve got here,” Bussanich said.
On Christmas Eve, 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Jay Randol, a rifleman with Kilo Company, 3/3, loaded into an armored vehicle to travel south with a re-supply convoy. He joined his company’s staff to cook Christmas dinner for fellow Kilo Company Marines at a small patrol base.
Though Randol is glad to be two months into his deployment, he said it was hard to spend Christmas thousands of miles away from his wife and two daughters.
“I’m missing out on my kids opening their presents and just being kids on Christmas,” said Randol, a Cincinnati native. “It’s my youngest daughter’s first Christmas. She just started walking, and I wasn’t able to be there for that either.”
The battalion chaplain, Navy Lt. Jerry Durham, spent his day holding Christmas services, reflecting on what it meant to be away from home and celebrating with fellow 3/3 sailors.
Shortly before deploying, Durham moved his wife and children to Hawaii, away from their extended family for the first time in several years.
“Growing up, Christmas was always big for both my wife’s family and my own,” said Durham, a native of Odessa, Fla. “I enjoyed spending it with the Marines and sailors, but it’s not the same as spending it at home.”
Despite the challenge of this separation, he said he was spiritually strengthened to serve in Afghanistan over Christmas.
“I’m excited to be here because I’m getting to do what I’ve been called to do — to bring this season to our Marines and sailors,” Durham said.
Regardless of job, rank or location, the Marines and sailors of “America’s Battalion” worked on Christmas. Another day complete, far away from their loved ones, they rested for the next day’s work, one day closer to returning home.
Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.