CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- ‘Twas the month of December and all through desert lands, service members were prepared for the missions at hand. Though they would not be home for the holiday season, there was laughter and joy that came with great reason.
Much like Santa Claus spreading holiday cheer around the world, service members with 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), were visited by a brother in arms, with gifts in hand.
Petty Officer 1st Class James Bowes, safety and environmental chief, 1st MLG (FWD), collected wrapped presents from various organizations from the United States so he could distribute them to Marines and sailors this holiday season to lift their spirits while deployed.
"I wanted to make sure the Marines and sailors have something to open for Christmas," said Bowes, 32, a native of Port Angeles, Wash. "It keeps them conscious that there are people in the States who care about them."
This is the second year Bowes has organized trinkets and pieces of home to be given out to service members. This year, he collected more than 100 wrapped presents for the troops.
"I am lucky because I get stuff from my wife and parents," said Bowes. "I want to make sure that the others are taken care of as well."
Growing up in a family with decades of military history, it was tradition to do something for the service members who couldn’t be home for the holidays.
"If we were back home, my family would invite [over] whomever to enjoy the holidays," Bowes said. "I try and do it every holiday season."
Bowes presented gifts to service members in various offices including postal, medical, supply, food service, administration, landing support, and engineer support.
"It makes it feel like home," said Staff Sgt. Alicia Grady, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Food Service, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st MLG (FWD), who received a wrapped Secret Santa gift from Bowes. "Receiving a wrapped gift and being able to open it is amazing."
It’s very thoughtful of Bowes to be thinking of everyone else, said Grady, 30, from Gary, Ind.
"Making sure the Marines and sailors are getting something for the holidays, especially since it’s on his own time, [is] very nice of him," Grady said.
Lance Cpl. Kenneth Morales, a food service Marine, didn’t expect to receive many gifts this year since he is deployed.
"It was like being a kid all over again," said Morales, after opening his present.
Inside his gift box was a thermal blanket and matching pillow case.
"[It was] really nice since it is getting really cold here," said Morales, 21, Lowell, Mass. "You can see that the people who sent out the gifts put a lot of thought into them."
Service members received an array of presents including thermoses, stuffed animals, hygiene products, sweets, board and card games, books, puzzles and other comfort items they can use during their deployment.
"It not only shows character amongst those who donated their time and service, it shows core value of Bowes, that even though we are deployed and fighting a war, it is the holidays and that we are here with each other and taking care of each other," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Schiermeier, safety officer, 1st MLG (FWD), who works with Bowes.
Even though it took a lot of time and effort to collect the gifts to distribute, Bowes said it was worth the effort.
"Seeing the expressions on their faces and how much it made them happy made it worth it," said Bowes.