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Christmas in Combat

As told to Jim Martinez, Proud Father of LCpl. James A. Martinez, Jr. USMC

The Marines of the 3rd Battalion 7th Regiment Weapons Company Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) Blue were lamenting the fact that they had pulled duty at ECP1 for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2005 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. ECP1 is an Enemy Check Point on the banks of the Euphrates River and controls the use of a strategic bridge crossing the river. The duty meant that CAAT Blue would miss out on the special holiday chow that would be served back at Firm Base Hurricane Point.

CAAT Blue engaged in a firefight early on Christmas Eve, only this time, the small arms tracer fire lighting up the night was almost beautiful and then it went unusually quiet, almost peaceful. Over the radio net, the CAAT Blue Marines decided to talk about what they were most grateful for as they maintained guard at the various positions in ECP1. LCpl. Martinez started it off.

“This is my family too. If I can not be at home, there is no place else that I would rather be than here with men for whom I am willing to die and who are willing to die for me while I protect my family and my country.” He then offered a toast and a prayer for Samuel Tapia, a CAAT Blue Marine Killed in Action just six days ago. The rest of the Marines offered their version of the same theme. On this holiest of nights, they pledged their lives to one another, just as Our Lord pledged the life of His Son to all mankind over two thousand years ago.

In keeping with the season, the Marines next discussed what they wanted for Christmas. It was unanimous: a confirmed kill and to see my family. Oorah! They finished the night singing Christmas carols Marine Corps style with old favorites like “Walking in a sniper wonderland”.

There is a Santa Claus and he came to ECP1 on Christmas Day 2005. The Battalion Commander, Company First Sergeant and the Chaplin made a call on ECP1. The leadership team made their way to each fighting position to shake each Marine’s hand and wish him a Merry Christmas. The Chaplin was bearing gifts of Girl Scout cookies and chili! CATT Blue learned the true meaning of the phrase that it is the thought that counts. The Battalion Commander then delivered his surprise.

He brought the 3/7 Quick Reaction Force with him to ECP1 and relieved CAAT Blue in place. He set up a make shift chow hall and served his Marines the special Christmas meal they thought they were going to miss! To make it truly special, the Marines got all the Coors Near Beer they could drink and they drank gallons. It is reliably reported that the only buzz the Marines got was from smashing the empty beer cans on their foreheads. Oorah!

This story of Christmas in Combat was told to me a few days after Christmas. Jaime (LCpl Martinez) summed it up as follows: “You know Dad, to tell the truth, this was a really good Christmas, spending it with a bunch of crazy S.O.B.’s. Oorah!

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Richard lemke - June 10, 2020

I was a Corpman with Fox 2/11 on fire base Christmas day 1968. When a chopper arrived with VIP,s it was Admiral John McCain. He was there for about 1 hour. Sure wish I had a photo, if gunny Martin in still with us, Semper Fi brother

John Reister - June 10, 2020

Christmas Eve 1968 I was lucky enough to see Bob Hope at DaNang . I was with the 5th Marines at An Hoa and had received a meritorious mast earlier and was given a ticket to see the show [I still have the III MAF ticket printed on yellow paper] and was seated behind the wounded . Flew to the rear on December 23rd spent the night with some guys I knew from back in “the world” , saw the show on the 24th and flew back to An Hoa on Christmas morning . It was an event I shall cherish the rest of my life . Semper Fi . John Reister , Sgt. USMC

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