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Days Before Christmas

Oorah Sgt Grit:

I’m going to tell the readers a story about my most memorable Christmas. Now, I love my family and like to spend holidays with them as much as the next man, but in my 26 years on Earth, my most memorable Christmas occurred while I was aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard with my brother Marines. This particular Christmas had no wonderful gifts, or huge Christmas trees, or Christmas decorations, but it is still my most memorable Christmas ever.

I was a member of Battalion Landing Team 1/4, the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. We were originally scheduled to deploy on WestPac on Jan 15, 2002. On Nov 20th, we were informed that we were to deploy on December 1st, 2001–45 days early on only ten days notice–in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. We were able to get fully embarked aboard ship in time so that we could have seven days of leave prior to departure, but of course it is not easy to deploy when you know that you will be missing the holidays with your family.

Anyway, a couple of days before Christmas, I got the idea that I would make the Holiday a little better for my Marines. I went to the ship’s store–a small compartment selling bare essentials such as skivvie shirts, underwear, Navy rank insignia and uniform items (but no Marine rank insignia, go figure), hygiene gear, paper and envelopes, candy bars, cigarettes, dip, etc.– and I shopped for the Marines of my squad. I got LCpl R.G. a couple packs of smokes, because he liked to smoke. I got LCpl E.S. a deck of cards and some Mach 3 razor blades. I got my wireman, Cpl G.C. a three pack of tapes for the digital camcorder that he brought aboard ship (the ship’s store only sold one type of tape and it was the type that his camcorder used). The clerk bagged the purchases in a couple of small, brown paper sacks.

When I got back to the berthing, I went to my rack and used the bags and some scotch tape and scissors to wrap the items like it was wrapping paper. With the left over brown bag material, I fashioned a small, paper Christmas tree and colored it with a green marker and taped it to the bulkhead inside my rack.

One of the other NCOs had received an anti-Osama bin Laden banner that had been sent by a group in his home town. We posted that as a decoration in the main passageway of our berthing.

When Christmas rolled around, I laid the gifts out on my rack, under the mini-tree, and called my squad into my aisle to distribute gifts. Now, of course, they were only the bare essentials, but I could tell that they were all surprised. I also gave one of my only pair of sergeant chevrons to my friend, who I know would be picking up sergeant soon.

I made Corporal at age 20 and sergeant at 21. Being a leader of Marines, or a military leader for that matter, at such a young age is tough. But, I learned that, just like with anything else in life, it is the little things that count. So, to all military leaders out there reading this, keep on doing those little things that do not seem like they matter too much, because they really do.

You know what, there may not have been wonderful gifts, there wasn’t a huge tree, and there weren’t Christmas decorations, but we made it work onboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.

P.S. And it wasn’t all sad–we got to spend several days in Singapore during New Year’s as the Bonhomme Richard needed repairs–so, we got our fun in port!

Merry Christmas to servicemen,-women, and veterans everywhere!

Daniel J. Robertson

Sergeant of Marines


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