CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Christmas is a time for giving, a time for families to get together and share happiness. For deployed service members, the ‘family get-together’ is a little bit different.
Troops from all around Camp Taqaddum gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday by running a 5-kilometer race.
It was the fourth of five races making up the Camp Taqaddum Road Series. The events were organized to boost morale, said Capt. James R. Uwins, environmental and safety officer of 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
For some service members, the race presented a chance to showcase their physical ability and endurance.
“I am running this for myself and to do better than I did the last race,” said Cpl. Leif L. Dawson, a supply clerk with Headquarters Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). “It gives me a sense of pride, especially when I beat everyone that works with me.”
For others, the competition was friendlier and provided an opportunity to meet new people
“Today was great for meeting people you don’t get to see because of the shift you work,” said Cpl. Davis J. Reichel, 22, a nuclear, biological and chemical specialist with 1st MLG (Forward) and a native of Staples, Michigan.
After each participant finished the race, they were treated with snacks, drinks and a free T-shirt.
The T-shirts were provided by Marine Corps Community Services, an organization that supports Marines and their families.
“I run this race not only to finish first in my shop, but also to get the cool t-shirt,” said Dawson, 20, a Las Vegas native. “I am trying to run all five races while I am out here and have all five shirts to show for it.”
“MCCS has allowed us to shape a race series because of the support and sponsorship,” said Uwins, 30, a native of Pasadena, Calif. “The t-shirts not only helped us organize the race, but gave the servicemembers somewhat of a souvenir as well.”
The top participants from each group received medals supplied by Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), a support program that provides service members around the world with entertainment and recreation.
The participants were divided into groups by age, and approximately 250 runners competed.
The first military male to finish was Sgt. James R. Tijerina, 26, a helicopter crew supervisor with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and a native of Katy, Texas, with a time of 18 minutes, 46 seconds. Lance Cpl. Valerie N. Ramirez, a 19-year-old supply clerk with Unmanned Air-Vehicle Squadron, 3rd MAW, and a native of Houston, was the top female competitor with a time of 22 minutes, 7 seconds.
The day came to a close after the award ceremony, and the competitors replenished their energy with a rewarding Christmas meal.
“This has been a neat experience because we are able spend time and eat with our (military) family on Christmas,” said Cpl. Caleb L. Jones, a member of Headquarters and Service Company, 1st MLG, and a native of Twin Falls, Idaho. “On Christmas it’s great for us to come together and celebrate the holiday.”