CAMP HURRICANE POINT, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Snack foods, magazines and, most importantly, improved morale are a few of the things Marines here with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment walk away with after shopping at Sgt. Miguel E. Mejia’s mobile convenience store.
The 24-year-old retail store manager with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Force Service Support Group, runs the Warfighter Express Service Team, which provides exchange items for purchase, dispersing and postal services to warriors fighting on the frontlines of the urban battlefield.
“The mission of the WEST team is to enable Marines to get money, make purchases and mail things back to the States,” explained the Salinas, a Puerto Rico native who’s assisted by three other Marines with 2nd FSSG. “We provide simple services that make a big difference in the lives of these service members.”
Mejia is like Santa Clause for Marines with the infantry battalion. They don’t have to wait a year for him to arrive, though. Christmas for them comes once a week when Mejia visits their camp in his sleigh, which is a 7-ton truck, loaded with goodies from the Camp Ramadi Exchange.
“We look forward to it coming all week,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Tanous, a rifleman with the guard force here, while standing in line for the PX. “The PX is a morale booster. It’s a little piece of home for us out here. I’m glad it comes here because we don’t have everyday access to a PX like others do at Camp Fallujah or Ramadi.”
Mejia knows what a PX call means to Marines in a combat zone.
“We’ve got Marines busting their humps everyday fighting out there in the city,” he said. “The least we can do is provide them with chips and dip and other things to help make them happy.”
Mejia was 19-years-old and working the night shift supervising a hospital parking lot in his hometown of Salinas when he decided to join the Marine Corps in 2000.
“I always wanted to be a Marine and serve.”
Mejia takes pride in wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor and said serving his fellow devil dogs is rewarding. He’s on a personal mission to improve their quality of life.
“My goal is to have a permanent exchange set up here,” he said. “I’ve got until my deployment ends to get it done.”
Mejia has between seven and 14 months here before returning stateside to Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“All my efforts are for the guys that get shot at everyday,” he said.