Deployed Sailors and Marines aboard USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) celebrated Christmas with fellow service members while deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility Dec. 24-25.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Keshia Gorby from Ashland, Ohio. “We’re away from family, but on the other hand we figure out that they’re people that care about us out here too.”
The festivities began Christmas Eve with a prize giveaway sponsored by the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department. Prizes included Kindles, iPad2s, and gift cards to various retailers.
“I had never won anything so I was very excited to get a Kindle Touch,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class (SW) Heather Mitchell from Bridgewater, Fla. “It’s really good for everyone to win a prize just for being here. MWR has done a great job of making the holiday special.”
The ship’s SITE TV played traditional Christmas movies, and the ship’s choir went caroling throughout the ship.
“This is my first time caroling, so I was a little nervous. But it was really fun bringing some Christmas cheer,” said Cpl. Sermantha Clark, from Forest, Miss.
Christmas day started early as the command’s religious ministry team opened with an ecumenical Christmas service.
“It is a really special holiday for a lot of people, so setting up for the service was really nice for everyone,” said Religious Programs Specialist 3rd Class (FMF) Michael Sency from Kokomo, Ind.
Later that morning, Mesa Verde’s divisions held a gift exchange, and service members unwrapped gifts together.
“It was really awesome putting together a ‘secret Santa’ for my department,” said Personnel Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) William Jae from Virginia Beach, Va. “I love Christmas, and I just wanted to make sure everyone had something to open Christmas day. We’re all the family we have out here, so we have to make it special for each other, especially our junior guys who aren’t used to being away from home for Christmas.”
The ship’s commanding officer opened up the 1-MC to play Christmas song requests, so Sailors and Marines could share their favorite holiday music. Free calling cards were also handed out, so Sailors and Marines could connect with family members back home.
“Being underway for Christmas is really unique,” said Cmdr. John K. Reilley, commanding officer of Mesa Verde, from Port Jefferson, N.Y. “It’s sad we can’t be home, and I’m sure we would all trade this celebration to be with the ones we miss the most, but we make the best of the holiday and can’t wait to be home with them.”
The festivities ended that evening with a meal prepared by Mesa Verde’s culinary specialists, which included traditional dishes such as ham, steak and an assortment of holiday cookies and pies.
“We always try to make the holidays special, and the meal is a big part of it,” said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW) Stephen Meyer from St. Charles, Miss. “Everyone got involved in this meal. The chiefs and gunnery sergeants made the food, the officers served and the first classes took care of the floor. We were all really happy to make the holiday special.”
“I like helping people, and it was nice to give the junior Sailors the night off,” said Ensign Caitlin Kopp from Flagsville, Tenn. “It’s just nice for them to enjoy Christmas and get a chance to socialize during the meal. I haven’t had a chance to eat just yet, but I’d like to wish everyone a merry Christmas.”
Mesa Verde is deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Naval Today Staff , December 28, 2011; Image: navy