NEAR KARMAH, Iraq -- Moon-dust clouds abounding, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, gathered today in the Chuck Norris Café here for a special holiday meal.
Personnel from all elements of the battalion, including sniper team attachments, Light Armored Reconnaissance, tanks platoon and line companies India, Kilo and Lima, were treated to fresh grilled meat and cold soda – a break from the usual “T-Rat” dinners.
As the Marines feasted mid-afternoon, rumors circulated the dining area that Chuck Norris himself slaughtered the beef and pork for consumption. The meal gave a good break for Marines conducting 24- hour operations in Al Anbar province.
As they joked, Marines also took time to reflect on the significance of celebrating Independence Day in a combat zone.
“I think this is the unit’s way of saying ‘thanks,’” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Colon-Lopez, a native of Canovanas, Puerto Rico. The reconnaissance scout said that while he may celebrate the holiday with his family in the U.S., being deployed gave him a new perspective.
“(The holiday) would really mean a lot to me back home … but out here, if we didn’t have this meal, it would be just another work day,” he said. Stuffing a huge chunk of steak into his mouth, he added, “this is the best steak I’ve ever had though.”
Marines responsible for serving the meal felt equally as important as the recipients. The meat was delivered by tactical convoy during midnight hours, food service Marines had precious little time to season and thaw nearly 2,000 steaks.
“Whew, we spent the whole night setting his up,” said Staff Sgt. Julio Gonzalez, 3/1 mess chief. “It took a lot of coordination.”
Gonzalez and his crew maintain the heavy responsibility of feeding the battalion while deployed, as opposed to units stationed at larger bases with permanent mess facilities and contractor staffs. It’s tough work day-to-day, and for the celebration, the battalion called in some reinforcements.
“We’ve got the battalion (staff noncommissioned officers) out here serving the troops,” he said. Why? “It’s a Staff NCO thing.”
The extra help, for whatever reason, added depth to the combat celebration.
“It’s a Fourth of July celebration with our ‘brothers in arms,’” he said.
Gonzalez avoided commenting on the behind-the-scenes effort of Chuck Norris.
For more information about Battalion Landing Team 3/1, or the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.