U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY - Deployed Marines are often alienated from news back home, but tragedies that shock and wound a nation are not left unseen by service members half-a-world away from their country.
Such a tragedy caused Marines and sailors assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, to pause during a training exercise the unit was conducting in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, Dec. 17, to hold a memorial service for the victims and loved ones of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Members of the battalion took a break from their daily training and operating schedule to mourn for those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
After a moment of silence, underneath camouflaged netting, the chaplain read scripture of encouragement and said prayers for those lost during the heartbreak.
“I wanted to coordinate an event where [the Marines and sailors] could express their feelings through prayer and consideration for those of Newtown,” said Lt. Stephen J. Zachary, chaplain, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “My prayer’s focus was on there being a new town of peace for the people of Newtown, Connecticut.”
More than 20 warfighters attended the ceremony for a common reason, to send a message of prayer to the community of Newtown. The unit’s chaplain felt it important to take time to send this message of compassion and reflect on such an event that struck the nation.
“I thought to myself, ‘what we can bring someone that has lost everything’,” said Zachary, a 50-year-old native of Oceanside, Calif. “What we can bring to them is letting them know that we are moved deeply at such a loss around this time of year. Even though we are this far away from home we are still thoughtful and feel for their hurt.”
Although the field-setting of the service would be considered austere to some, it didn’t prevent the services from continuing.
“It was thoughtful to be in [away] and still be able to take time to grieve for the families that are hurting from this tragedy,” said Cpl. Jennifer S. Nguyen, field radio operator, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “I wanted to give my peace and say a prayer for the kids and their loved ones.”
The chaplain explained that the reason service members come together to support the nation in such occasions is from a common trait shared by those who choose join the military. They saw it as their duty to show their support for the Sandy Hook community.
“At the core of everyone who serve’s heart, they are not here for themselves, they’re here to serve others,” said Zachary. “At this time of year when so many of us are away from home, when we receive news like this, it sets it more clearly why we make so many sacrifices for the land of the free and home of the brave.”
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility