Sailors celebrate birthday in Iraq

13 Oct 2004 | Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

For many sailors and Marines, missing holidays or special occasions is a part of being deployed.  But for the sailors on FOB Kalsu, this year's Navy birthday will be something to remember.

Oct. 13 is recognized as the U.S. Navy's birthday.  Annually, sailors and Marines take time out to remember their heritage and look forward to their future.  This year, the sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's command element, MEU Service Support Group 24 and a detachment of sailors from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 4 celebrated the Navy's 229th birthday forward-deployed in the war on terror.

The small ceremony included a formation, remarks from Col. Ronald Johnson, commanding officer of the 24th MEU, and two decorated cakes.  Johnson spoke to the sailors about the job they have been doing in Iraq.

According to Johnson, operating in a joint environment like Iraq can be a challenge but "the Navy and Marine Corps have been going out together even when there wasn't a war."  That partnership has made it easier for the Navy and Marine Corps team to adapt.

"I am damn proud of you, and of your service.  I thank you," Johnson said.

This year's celebration was special for most because it was celebrated in a combat environment.

"It was an experience," said Seaman Eduardo Rivera, a hospital corpsman with the MEU's command element, and a Milwaukee, Wis., native.  "I never knew how much of a big deal it was until we were out here in the field -- I will never forget it."

Johnson also offered his view on the significance of this birthday.

"You may think some of the things you do here are mundane," said Johnson.  "But the memories of moments like this are the things we'll keep forever."

Others agreed.

"You remember stuff like this more than some big gathering at a home port," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Rebecca L. Newman, a builder with NMCB-4 and an Escondito, Calif., native.  "Having on all this (personal protective equipment) and standing in formation is different."
Newman also had a birthday wish to share.

"I wish that all (sailors) get home safe, but not just them, everyone," said Newman.

Although the celebration was memorable, it was short because everyone here is still involved in supporting combat operations.

After she ate her cake, Newman was thinking about her next task.

"I will be pouring a concrete pad," said Newman, "Getting down and dirty."