ARLINGTON, Va. --
As many Americans kept their deployed loved ones in their thoughts and prayers during the holidays, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, was in Afghanistan breaking bread with his Marines and sailors, and personally wishing more than 13,000 troops a Merry Christmas while combat operations carried on.
In a span of 10 days, Amos and Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, visited troops in Afghanistan and Germany to show support and appreciation for their services and sacrifices overseas during the holiday season.
Amos said he and Kent wanted to personally tell their Marines and Sailors “thank you for serving, for being away from their families, and to wish them Merry Christmas.”
It was a mission that not only entailed of greeting his devil dogs fighting at the tip of the spear, but a mission to recognize many who have endured physical hardships during their deployment to the combat zone.
He presented Purple Hearts on Christmas to seven Marines serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, in Musaqala, Afghanistan, who sustained wounds while serving in the heart of Helmand province.
Marines and Sailors also took a moment to talk to their two most senior Marines and ask questions in regards to the commandant’s priorities and planning guidance.
“I was pleasantly reaffirmed by the strong leadership of the NCOs (noncommissioned officers) and lieutenants,” Amos said. “They are out at the far edges of the battlefield, making international decisions, and making the right ones. It reaffirmed the strength of our leadership.”
In early December, Amos made a promise to the families of Marines serving with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, that he’d visit their loved ones serving in Afghanistan. He kept his word and spent a day with the Marines and Sailors of “Darkhorse,” 3rd Bn., 5th Marines’ call sign, in Sangin, Afghanistan, a city that was a hub for opium trade with Taliban ties.
He was met with reassurance of progress in Helmand province.
“My sense is that there is strong momentum growing,” Amos said. “There is every reason to be optimistic in the Helmand province. There is a tough fight going on up in Sangin Valley, but the Marines there are optimistic. They sense that this thing is tipping in their favor.
“My message is that in our piece of Afghanistan, there is every reason for optimism,” he added.
Amos’ trip continued to the far reaches of Afghanistan ranging from Kabul to Camp Leatherneck, to multiple forward operating bases throughout the landlocked country. Amos visited more than 14 Marine units and boarded 24 flights on multiple aircraft to include the C-130 Hercules and the expeditionary troop carrier MV-22 Osprey to visit his devil dogs in their respective areas of combat operation.
“I came away even more encouraged than I have been in the past,” Amos said. “I sense momentum building in Helmand. There is a strong sense of encouragement from the Marines and Sailors. I feel good – that we are headed in the right direction.”
The trip culminated at Landstuhl, Germany, where the commandant met Wounded Warriors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. While there he extended his gratitude to the medical center’s staff for the support and dedication they have provided to the nation’s wounded service members.
“I wanted to look the doctors, nurses, medics and corpsmen in the eye and thank them for caring for our young men and women,” Amos said.
The commandant and sergeant major also shared an important message from President Barack Obama: “’Will you tell the Marines that their commander in chief says thanks, and Merry Christmas,’” Amos told his Marines.