PACIFIC OCEAN --
Sailors and Marines of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group celebrated Thanksgiving Day aboard three ships here Nov. 24 – some spending their first holiday away from home.
“Although the days can be demanding, coming together on days like today as a cohesive unit, we can create memories that will last a lifetime,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Niederhaus, Combat Logistics Battalion 11’s health services detachment lead petty officer aboard Makin Island.
Aboard the amphibious assault ship Makin Island, service members began the day with a 5K run on the ship’s flight deck followed by bowling with frozen turkeys.
Makin Island’s food-service personnel prepared a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal for approximately 2,500 Marines and sailors, while approximately 700 service members aboard USS New Orleans enjoyed a similar fare: turkey or ham with mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, stuffing, corn on the cob and more.
“It was a nice dinner,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy Phares, a rifleman with Company L aboard New Orleans and a 22-year-old Orange, Texas, native. “You could see the amount of time and effort that was put into preparing the food and decorations. It made spending the holiday away from our families a little easier.”
Company L is one of three rifle companies with Battalion Landing Team 3/1, which is the ground combat element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit embarked the three ships in San Diego Nov. 14, beginning a deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East regions.
“I think people were happy and satisfied with their meal,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Ronquillo, chief mess deck master-at-arms aboard Makin Island. “It’s a good morale booster, and that’s how we celebrate at sea, as one family.”
Speaking to the work and preparation that went into the meal aboard New Orleans, culinary specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Green said, “We do our best to try and offer all the comforts of home.”
Adding to the home feel, members of the morale-welfare-and-recreation committee aboard New Orleans set up holiday decorations and banners throughout the ship.
Officers and staff noncommissioned officers aboard the ships served food to the troops, including those aboard USS Pearl Harbor, where service members gathered at tables and said grace, asking for blessings and giving thanks.
“It settles our mind and gives us the opportunity to remember the bigger picture,” said Lt. Paul Armstrong, chaplain aboard New Orleans. “We need opportunities like these to pause and shift our focus, even if it’s only for a meal.”
Editors note: Sgt. Elyssa Quesada, Cpl. Tommy Huynh and Cpl. Ryan Carpenter contributed reporting to this article.