CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Inevitably, many Marines and service members spend the holiday seasons overseas away from friends and family. Fortunately, they have an enormous support network, which continues to produce new ways to enhance holiday cheer during their deployment.
This year, a stateside book provider sent hundreds of recordable storybook editions of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to the Marines and sailors of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). This book allowed Marines to audibly record themselves reading this traditional Christmas poem and send it home to their loved ones.
Upon arrival, the recipient was able to open the book and hear each page read by their deployed service member.
"I think the book was the only thing I sent home this year, and they loved it," said Master Sgt. Fred Dircksen, the officer in charge of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense for 3rd MAW (Fwd). "I think the best part, for them, was just hearing my voice.
The support system out here has come a long way [in the last decade]. It really makes you realize how much everyone means to you."
Furthermore, service members throughout Afghanistan randomly received care packages through programs such as AnyMarine, which contained treats, essentials, and letters of support and cheer from American citizens.
"During the holidays, we were able to collect around 30 boxes containing food, hand warmers, socks and things of that nature for Marines in more remote locations, who don’t have the luxury of receiving mail every few days like we do here," said Sgt. Julianna Sharp, the training noncommissioned officer in charge for Marine Wing Support Squadron 3, 3rd MAW (Fwd).
Aside from receiving support from afar, local military leadership played a role in ensuring their service members were taken care of during the holidays. Commanding officers and senior enlisted serving here and aboard forward operating bases across Regional Command (Southwest) spent their evenings at the dining facilities serving and dishing out hot meals to the Marines and sailors.
Soon, many service members here will return home this spring due to the changeover between the I and II Marine Expeditionary Force. However, the efforts and support received by troops overseas will continue to boost their morale and spirits in their times of greatest need.