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Marines Serve in Afghanistan With Pride

By Marine Lance Cpl. Walter Marino
Special to American Forces Press Service

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2009 – Marines of 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion are serving in southern Afghanistan with pride, despite the hardship of being away from their families during the holidays.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan Lehman, a combat engineer, cuts down a tree to make room for the construction of an observation post in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 18, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Walter Marino

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Marines are working hard, building observational posts, searching for improvised explosive devices and providing route clearance.

“I didn't join the Marine Corps during a time of war not to fight,” said Cpl. Aaron A. Bennet, a heavy equipment operator.

“It was time to do my part,” he said.

Marines deploy to Afghanistan knowing they may not see loved ones for up to a year. Yet, the positive is found.

“My wife and I say it’s not going to kill us, only make us stronger,” Bennet said. “Some relationships get stagnant. But we know what it’s like to truly miss each other.”

Bennet said he got married knowing the possibility of spending long periods of time away from his wife.

“My wife understood why I wanted to deploy,” the Spring, Texas, native said. “She told me, ‘I know you joined the Marine Corps to fight. Who am I to tell you not to fight?’”

Some Marines subscribe their own meaning to the word sacrifice.

“Sacrifice isn't a real sacrifice unless you believe in the people you’re with and the mission at hand,” said Cpl. Jonathan Lehman, a combat engineer.

No doubt the Marines in Afghanistan will miss their families this holiday season. But, they are with a different kind of family in Afghanistan, said Col. Randall P. Newman, Regimental Combat Team 7’s commander.

“My fellow Marines get me through this, along with mail from home,” Newman said.

Receiving mail from home, Newman said, “makes me feel closer to my family.”

Lehman has his plans set for next year’s holiday season, he said.

“Next year’s Christmas will be quite the experience,” he said. “It will be me and my wife’s first Christmas as a family.”

Lehman also said he looks forward to next Christmas as a time to spoil his 4-year-old daughter.

(Marine Lance Cpl. Walter Marino serves with 1st Marine Division’s Regimental Combat Team 7 public affairs.)

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