CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines come from many different backgrounds, and their beliefs span almost all religions. To support every Marine's faith, Navy chaplains try their best to promote everyone's spirituality through counseling, support services and travel opportunities.
Lance Cpl. Michael S. Isabelle, a wireman with Communications Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, was given the opportunity to attend the Hajj, a pilgrimage that represents the fifth pillar of Islam, in support of his faith.
Every year, a Muslim service member from each branch of the military is chosen to attend the Hajj, sponsored by the Saudi government. Isabelle was chosen to represent the Marine Corps this year.
"The reason the king of Saudi Arabia sends out the invitation every year is to build a good relationship with the United States," said Isabelle. "I was very well taken care of."
During the pilgrimage, Isabelle visited holy sites in Mecca, Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah. However, one event stuck out to him the most.
Going to Mecca and seeing the Kaaba for the first time in person made the most significant impact on Isabelle during his pilgrimage.
"The first time I saw it, I didn't speak for ten minutes because I was in awe," he said.
The Hajj was first brought to Isabelle's attention by his regimental chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. John S. Kroener, CLR-17, 1st MLG, who also helped coordinate all the logistical aspects of the trip.
"It was really a wonderful thing to help a Marine attend the Hajj," said Kroener.
Isabelle said he was grateful for the support the Marine Corps and the king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah Al Saud, offered. The Hajj is the most important trip in the lives of many Muslims.
"There isn't a word to describe it; the whole thing was a blessing," said Isabelle. "This should definitely be carried on into the future."