The war in Afghanistan grips not only those deployed, but their entire families. ABC News followed two Marines as they deployed to Afghanistan in late December -- part of the 30,000-person surge ordered by President Obama to fight for security in the region.
"This my uncle gave me… my great grandmother gave to him when he was going out to Desert Storm," said Cpl. Phil Jedras, holding up a rosary. "She made him promise that he'd bring them back, so he made me do the same… This is probably the most special thing that I'm taking with me," he added.
Jedras and Pfc. Rodrigo Rodriguez said goodbye to their families in the dark of night. And then there was a call to attention -- breaking the quiet -- signaling it was time to go.
It's Jedras' second tour of duty – he previously spent time in Iraq. Rodriguez is deploying for the first time.
"I haven't put my foot down in Afghanistan yet, so I don't know what exactly it is like -- it's the little things in the area that make me feel more comfortable," Rodriguez said before he left. "I'll probably be scared when I get there. Every human goes through some kind of fear."
"I try to cram all my emotion, my family, my love of my family, all in that last two to five minutes right before I get on the bus," Jedras said. "As soon as I get on that bus, it's game time."
The two soldiers traveled from their homes in Camp Lejeune in N.C. to Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
"It's exciting getting on the plane," Jedras said. "It was Christmas Eve, and we boarded and it went from 11:59 p.m. to midnight. It became Christmas and all the Marines started cheering on the plane saying, 'Hey, Merry Christmas.' Couple minutes later, we were airborne and flying -- flying into Afghanistan."
Deployed with the Bravo Company, Second Assault Amphibian Battalion, the Marines described their first impressions.
"There weren't any paved roads, anything like that, and the weather is a little rough -- it has been a little crazy," said Rodriguez. Yesterday we had a little rain, hot, cold...crazy."
"Here the temperature changes at nighttime -- a lot. Really, really cold," Jedras said.
Respecting Afghan Culture
In the first days of their mission, Jedras and Rodriguez repeated the mantra of their mission -- fight the Taliban, but honor the Afghan culture.
"We know what [the Taliban] are, what they believe in. We can't take that from them," said Rodriguez. "You know, it's like them trying to take our religion from us."
"You can change a village, have a village on your side or oppose you depending how you react [during the] first five to ten minutes with them," said Jedras. "A lot of them are living in poverty."
Jedras pointed to a wheelbarrow and continued, "We might look at that as a $5 wheelbarrow with a flat tire… but to them that's the most expensive thing they own. So treat it like we would treat our most expensive piece of equipment."
Jedras and Rodriguez are two men representing the 30,000 who are about to arrive in Afghanistan -- facing so much danger, so far from home.