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Christmas Carols in the Desert

Your Before The Corps founders and contributors have a wide range of experiences. We have served in the Fleet Marine Force both overseas and in the continental US. We have seen both peace and conflict. We also know what it's like to miss birthdays, anniversaries, and a holiday or two.

Today, we are going to give you a brief insight from a deployment to an undisclosed location in the Middle East one of our contributors shared with us:

It was a few years back. I was a platoon commander on my first pump overseas. We arrived in the summer, so when we offloaded the plane, it was hot as shit. Like hotter than Death Valley hot. Over the first few months, we'd had plenty of hard days, but the platoon found its rhythm in time. By December temperatures cooled, and it was finally almost somewhat comfortable to go outside. Somehow, despite boiling during the days, we needed to throw on warming layers at night. Some guys even broke out their happy suits. Most people don't know, but it also gets freezing cold in the desert.

On Christmas morning, things started out like any other normal day. Accountability, weapons maintenance, and everyone posting to their observation/security posts. out of nowhere, it rained - the only time it rained the entire deployment. It was also frigid out - the coldest day of the entire deployment. Honestly, it was the most miserable weather we faced the entire pump, and it made you wish the 120 degrees and 100% humidity would come back.

After some time, my Gunny walked up to me in the operations center, and he wanted to go tour the posts to see how the Marines were doing. He always knew what was right, so I grabbed my gear and my rifle, and we began a long, cold walk to visit the boys. We visited every single observation and security post and fortunately the Marines were in decent spirits. Many told us what their parents had sent, others told us what presents they bought for their kids, and one even talked about his plan to buy a red mustang when he got home with all his deployment money (the stereotype of young Marines is way too accurate). I don't know why I remember that, but he knew what he wanted as a late present for himself (and he did get the car once we got home).

The Marines we found at one particular post have always stuck in my memory. There was a pair of Marines situated in a raised position about 30ft above ground level with a machine gun placed to protect one of our flanks. They couldn't hear us coming over the rain until we hit the stairs. As we approached, I heard noises. Gunny looked at me and laughed. The Marines were singing "Silent Night" but got every other word wrong. When we got to the top, we found one of our Marines who had immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala with a Marine from Ohio. After the Marines reported the post, they explained what they were doing. While they spent their shift staring at the desert, they had begun to teach each other carols. In English and Spanish. Problem was, the Ohioan didn't know half the words, so he just filled in the lyrics with what he thought rhymed. Probably the sincerest moment I'd seen on a deployment. On the most miserable "embrace the suck" day, these guys brought a little piece of home out. I'll never forget it.

Moments like that live with you forever. In the worst conditions, away from their friends, parents, spouses, and children, Marines find a way to always stay motivated. Thousands of miles away from home, these Marines brought holiday joy to a sand and stone observation post and still got the job done. Semper Fi Marines. 'Twas a good day. We never saw an AK that day, and we had a great meal at the chow hall.

Hold your family close, but don't forget our brothers and sisters who are in harm's way. And for our readers who are out fighting the good fight, you are in our prayers. Be safe and come home soon.

Semper Fi and Merry Christmas to you all.

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