CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - While deployed to Iraq, Robert Allen wrote a song for his wife, Carla. He sent it to her on Christmas Eve.
“She said she bawled her eyes out when she heard it,” said Allen, a native of Pawnee, Okla. “My wife can’t stand it at all when I leave, but she understands what I do. She understands being a Marine is not just my job, it’s my passion.”
Allen said he believes his song, “A Marine’s Christmas Song,” offers tribute to the burdens military members and their families endure as they spend the holidays apart.
The song can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT2WbneONWw
This year, Allen, a Marine Corps master sergeant, is again deployed during the holiday season. He currently serves in Helmand province, Afghanistan, as the aircraft rescue firefighting chief for Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, based out of Camp Leatherneck.
Allen’s squadron, deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., provides aviation ground support for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), the aviation combat element for the southwestern regional command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, which encompasses Helmand and Nimruz provinces, where the Marines have centered their counterinsurgency operations.
“I joined the Marine Corps to make a difference and to be part of a force that protects my country,” Allen said.
Allen, the son of an Air Force mechanic, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996 at the age of 22.
“Growing up, to me, a military service member was a warrior. I just wanted to be in the military and I always knew that as a young man,” Allen said. “As I grew older, seeing Marines and hearing the stories about [the Marine Corps], the honor that came with being a United States Marine, that appealed to me.”
Allen began playing the guitar as a corporal stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., when his wife bought her father’s used Yamaha guitar.
“I started writing my own music right away because I didn’t know anyone else’s music. I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to play, except an old music book,” Allen said. “When I was a young Marine and didn’t have money for gifts, I used to write my wife songs for anniversaries.”
There are now 12 guitars in the Allen household. His two sons – Aaron, 17, and Aidan, 15 – are also avid guitarists.
“My daughter is really good at playing the maracas or the tambourine,” Allen said of his 8-year-old daughter, Lainie. “She loves to jump in there, and she sings beautifully.”
Allen’s story of family awaiting his return is echoed by so many men and women who wear a uniform in Afghanistan.
“The Marines don’t need anything to help remind them of what they miss from back home,” Allen said. “For the spouses, they should know we’re constantly thinking about them.
“Even though we’re busy throughout the day, there are many times where we stop and think about home and how much we miss them, just miss the little things that we share with them or the stuff we’re missing out on,” he added. “Having them in our arms to hold is one of the most important things that you miss while you’re out here.”
Allen joins the thousands of men and women deployed this holiday season in support of counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. He said he hopes his Christmas song “will help people understand that though we’re willing to do it, it’s still heartbreaking.”
“For a military that’s willing and ready to leave their families to serve their fellow Americans, it’s all those little things that are hardest to deal with when you leave home,” Allen said.