GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) decked the halls of the ship as its crew celebrated the holiday season underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, Dec. 25.
While being far from home during the holidays can be difficult for some, crew members kept their holiday spirit and remained focused on their mission.
Many Sailors and Marines found ways to continue long standing holiday family traditions while on deployment.
"I've read 'The Night Before Christmas' to my kids every year since they were born, and it is a very important tradition to me and my family," said Chief Gunner's Mate Heidi Camara. "The United Through Reading program allowed me to send a video of myself reading the book to my kids back home, which they will be able to watch on Christmas Eve. It's one of the most amazing things I have ever done, and I was glad to have that opportunity to maintain that connection even though I am on the other side of the world."
Arlington's religious ministries team provided a candlelight Christmas Eve Mass and other religious services to the crew while the food services division provided a special meal on Christmas Day.
"We perform Christmas services this time of the year because Sailors and Marines are thinking about the things that are important to them such as home, family and faith," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Ulven, Arlington's chaplain. "These religious services during deployment and programs like United Through Reading connect us with our loved ones this holiday season despite the distance."
For many Sailors, this was their first deployment and first time being away from their family, friends and loved ones.
"This is my first time away from home during Christmas," said Personnel Specialist Seaman Kenroy Mark. "The ship has really come together as a family and made it easier to celebrate the holidays despite being away from home. Christmas meals and church services make it so that we can still enjoy the season."
"No matter how long the day is or how difficult the task, I know that the Arlington Navy and Marine Corps team won't stop until we achieve success," said Commanding Officer Capt. Sean Bailey. "That is what makes us a great ship and that is what should make you most proud of your friends and loved ones as we spend this holiday season apart. So on behalf of my family back in the states, and my Arlington family here at sea, we wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy and healthy new year."
Arlington is part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
For more news from USS Arlington (LPD 24), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lpd24/.