A Chat with Marines in Iraq
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
Today, while many are celebrating Christmas at home with loved ones, we're talking to those who cannot be home. Thousands of U.S. military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will spend this Christmas in a war zone. We called a few of them with holiday wishes.
Marine Sergeant Chris Buck(ph) has been in Iraq for five months, providing support to Iraqi Army and police in Fallujah. He joins us from Karma, Iraq.
CHRIS BUCK: Merry Christmas to you.
MONTAGNE: Tell us a little bit about where you are and how you will spend Christmas?
BUCK: Well, we are in Karma in Anbar province. We are currently at our OP right now. And we will probably spend Christmas here with some of the troops that are here with us at our OP. I'm sure we have our cooks up there cooking right now, cooking up some food for us. Later on in the day, we'll be all coming together and, you know, celebrating Christmas as a family.
MONTAGNE: As a family, like a Marine family?
BUCK: That's correct.
MONTAGNE: So do you happen to know what the food is?
BUCK: Well, I went over across the way to where some of the cooks are cooking, and Sergeant (unintelligible) is over there cooking some turkey, ham and it looks like some candied yams and hopefully he's cooking up some collard greens.
MONTAGNE: Do you always have collard greens on Christmas?
BUCK: Oh, it's a must.
MONTAGNE: And who are you thinking about this Christmas?
BUCK: I'm thinking about all my family back home - mom, dad, brothers and sisters, and especially thinking about my wife for sure. She's currently spending time with my parents in Charlotte, North Carolina right now.
MONTAGNE: Thank you Sergeant Chris Buck, and Merry Christmas to you.
BUCK: And once again Merry Christmas to you.
MONTAGNE: Nearby in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, we're joined by Captain Jeff Hollinger(ph) and Corporal Ryan Cayvey.
And first Captain Hollinger, good morning, Merry Christmas.
JEFF HOLLINGER: Merry Christmas.
MONTAGNE: Tell us what its like there in Saqlawiyah.
HOLLINGER: Saqlawiyah is just northwest of Fallujah, Iraq. Small city located outside. There are a lot of rural areas around. Pretty, rainy and cold this time of the year, not much different than a lot of the eastern states are about this time of the year.
MONTAGNE: Are you able, in any sense, to celebrate?
HOLLINGER: Yes. You know, they make a good effort to make sure we get a good Christmas meal out here. Care packages are flowing in constantly. You know, they try to make the extra effort, as best they can for all the guys out on the forward lines.
MONTAGNE: Could you describe for us just, maybe one moment of what has been Christmas for you today?
HOLLINGER: Today, moment is just thinking about family and friends back home, what they're doing back there. Really I've been in the Marine Corps 13 and a half years, and I've been lucky in that this is really my first Christmas being away. But for me here, every other day is just the same day. So it's not that much different other than the fact that it makes me reflect a little bit more on what I'm missing back home.
MONTAGNE: Captain Jeff Hollinger, Merry Christmas to you.
HOLLINGER: Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you and everybody back there.
MONTAGNE: Would you mind handing the phone to Corporal Ryan Cayvey?
HOLLINGER: Yup. Sure thing. He's on his way.
RYAN CAYVEY: How are you doing ma'am?
MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you. How are you doing on this Christmas Day?
CAYVEY: I'm doing wonderful.
MONTAGNE: Oh, that's good to hear. Have you been able to be in touch with your family at home, and know what they're doing today?
CAYVEY: Not today. I called last night and I spoke with my wife, and my father, and my mother, and my grandparents. So I got around.
MONTAGNE: What's your wife doing? She must be missing you.
CAYVEY: Right now, she's finishing up on her schooling, and taking care of my newly born child.
MONTAGNE: Did she tell you what she and your new child, what a boy or a girl?
CAYVEY: I have a girl, and she was born in October.
MONTAGNE: Oh, have you met your baby daughter yet?
CAYVEY: No, but I've seen pictures.
MONTAGNE: Is she cute?
CAYVEY: And I hear her on the phone. Oh, I think she's gorgeous. I'm going to be in trouble when she gets older.
MONTAGNE: Your squad leader, Corporal Nick Rapavi, was killed earlier this year.
CAYVEY: Yeah. He was my squad leader, and now I'm acting squad leader.
MONTAGNE: Could you, though, tell us what he was like to work with there?
CAYVEY: Him and I were very much alike. We occasionally would butt heads, but it was for the good, you know, and then after work we would sit back together, and enjoy our friendship. He's one of the best squad leaders I've ever had. And I'm going to miss him.
MONTAGNE: Corporal Ryan Cayvey, thank you for joining us, and have a very good Christmas.
CAYVEY: All right. Thank you. You too.
MONTAGNE: All of the Marines we spoke to are members of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. We wish them and all of our troops a happy and safe holiday.
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