For Lima Company, Holidays Away From Home Are Bittersweet


Husband and wife set up the crib before he left for his tour.

"I'm upset that I'm not going to be there for the birth," Pompilli said. "A phone call would be nice, but if I can actually see my daughter that would be really great."

On Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan, Pompilli had a lot to be thankful for -- an e-mail message from Melanie announcing her doctors were inducing labor.

For the next 17 hours, Pompilli was at the helm of a mobile command center for "Operation Reilly" -- the name chosen for their daughter -- inside his armored vehicle. Through a Skype connection, Pompilli watched every labor pain, every push, posting on Facebook, "The suspense is killing me. Still a bundle of nerves. I love you Melanie. :)"

"She sounds like she's in a lot of pain," he said. "I don't like hearing her upset or in pain. It's hard for me to be here and not be able to be there for her and comfort her when I need to be."

Finally, the moment they had been waiting for. Melanie, exhausted, gave birth to their baby girl -- a happy, healthy baby just in time for Christmas.

Crying, Pompilli greeted his daughter for the first time. "Hi Reilly."

"She's beautiful, just like her mom," Pompilli said.

Halfway There

For other families, the holidays this year are bittersweet. As the halfway point in Lima Company's deployment approaches, loved ones and Marines are counting the days.

Christy Bokros is saving a special ornament which she and her husband will hang together.

"When he gets back, we'll put this on her tree," she said. Meanwhile, a photo of Bokros mounted on a stick will fill in at holiday dinners.

"It's kind of humbling," Bokros said. "I should be starting my life right now, but instead I'm here. I think it will make us stronger."

In Afghanistan, Bokros doesn't wait until Christmas Day to open his gifts -- reminders from home, a book to pass the time. He sent a video message to his family back home.

"Seeing his facial expressions make me miss him even more. I hope for the best, I still worry," Christy said.

The families and the Marines of Lima Company are counting the days till they can come back home.

"I just want to get the hell out of here and go home and see my daughter," Pompilli said.

And as for Blackwell's daughter Sierra, she can't wait to see her dad. When asked what she was going to say to her father when he comes home, she smiled and said "Welcome home, Daddy."

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