DELARAM, Afghanistan — Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez is thankful for a lot of things this Thanksgiving—but mostly for the people he celebrated it with.
Like most Marines in Afghanistan, Martinez spent Thanksgiving at work, standing security and supervising his fellow Marines. But Martinez, an infantryman serving with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, didn’t want to let work overshadow the holiday for him and his fellow Marines.
Following his six-hour shift, Martinez invited each Marine in his squad, unbeknownst to them, to join him for a Thanksgiving meal in his barracks room.
Martinez said he thinks of each Marine in his unit as a brother, an extension of family that isn’t related by blood. He said he wanted Thanksgiving in Afghanistan to be reminiscent of home and wanted each Marine to experience it together.
Martinez set up a small, plastic table in his room and set out what little food they had—steak, turkey, mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing. The Marines gathered around the table and Martinez led them in saying grace.
Martinez then asked each Marine to say one thing that he was thankful for this year.
Saying what one is thankful for is a tradition Martinez has done since he was little boy. Growing up in Arcata, Calif., Martinez and his family always celebrated Thanksgiving as a special holiday. Each year, they would come together to watch the Macy’s Day Parade, play Trivial Pursuit, and watch homemade movies.
Martinez said he will miss being home for the holidays this year, but is glad to spend it with his fellow Marines.
“These Marines are my brothers,” said Martinez. “They are as much a part of my family as anyone.”
Several of the Marines said the Thanksgiving meal provided an excellent opportunity for them to come together and build camaraderie as a unit.
“It’s nice to be able to bring a piece of home to Afghanistan,” said Cpl. Kenton Zerr, a team leader within the Security Force Assistance Advisor Team and native of Grainfield, Kan. “Even though the food wasn’t as good as our families cooking, the intent was still the same. We all got together and bonded. I’m going to remember this Thanksgiving for a while.”