MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines and sailors going through Mojave Viper pre-deployment training, despite their busy schedules, took time to pause and worship in recognition of Easter, April 12.
Elements of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Kanoehe Bay, Hawaii, and 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., were given the opportunity to attend religious services while in the field on what is considered one of the most holy days in both Catholic and Protestant faiths.
The battalion chaplain of 2/3, Lt. Randal K. Potter, and Navy Capt. Conrad Targonski, the Combat Center’s religious ministries director, traveled to six locations throughout the base’s training areas to provide the services.
“As chaplains, it is our duty to provide free exercise of religion for every Marine and sailor,” Potter said. “When you go into theater, a Marine is a Marine. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of your Marines or someone else’s.”
The pair also came bearing gifts – nearly 3,500 cookies baked by sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students at St. Theresa School in Palm Springs, Calif.
In the past, the school has donated care packages to units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, but decided to show their thanks to Marines in training as well, said Linda Patton-Hyatt, a teacher at St. Theresa School.
“The students and clergy here wanted the Marines preparing for Afghanistan to have a nice treat on Easter,” Patton-Hyatt said.
The day began when the two chaplains and their escorts departed Camp Wilson for the Emerson Lake training area to deliver cookies to a company of Marines from 2/4 and provide quick religious services to those who requested them.
They then headed back to Camp Wilson to provide Easter services at the chapel. Nearly 100 Marines and sailors came from a variety of units to attend.
After a quick lunch, the duo traveled to three forward operating bases surrounding the Combat Center’s Range 215 to preach the word of God to numerous Marines and sailors.
At the Combat Center’s Range 400, Marines and sailors from 2/4 also welcomed the chaplains, who left the encampment knowing they had helped more service members worship on Easter.
Darkness began to fall as the group reached FOB 2 at Range 215. However, low light did not prevent the chaplains from holding their final services for the day. Potter and Targonski diligently held their services in the glow of flashlights and vehicle headlights, ensuring everyone had the opportunity to take in an Easter sermon.
Despite a long and exhausting day, the chaplains were in high spirits and were proud of their accomplishments.
“This is what I’ve been called to do,” Potter said. “It’s been an overwhelming experience, and it’s very rewarding to serve these Marines by doing what I was always meant to do.
“I’ve also delivered cookies to every Marine in my unit,” Potter added with a smile. “It makes you feel special to know these people care about your service to your country and this is their way of giving back.”
Potter and the rest of 2/3 recently completed Mojave Viper training and are set to deploy to Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The Marines and sailors of 2/4 are currently going through the training and will deploy to Afghanistan later this year.