AR RAMADI, Iraq -- With his head bowed and eyes closed, Pfc. Rick R. Blakely joined a small group of Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in a dimly-lit section of the Government Center building here and celebrated Easter Sunday.
It wasn't the type of Easter the 19-year-old rifleman is used to celebrating back home with his family in Prescott, Mich., but it would have to do since he wasn't at home. Instead he's in Iraq fighting in the Global War on Terrorism, and his fellow Marines serve as his family.
The infantry battalion's 32-year-old chaplain, Navy Lt. Aaron T. Miller, visited the Marines and conducted a hasty, 15-minute Easter service and served Holy Communion. The man of God's efforts to deliver an Easter message to Marines serving at remote locations in the city lifted Blakely's spirits.
"It's great that he came out here and preached," said the 2004 Whittemore High School graduate. "He went out of his way to give us an Easter service."
Miller wished Blakely and the other Marines happy Easter and asked them to meditate on the significance of the day.
"Easter signifies the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," said the Redlands, Calif., native. "Try to take care of your spiritual sides. Don't neglect that important part of your lives."
Easter is Blakely's favorite holiday. Back home in Prescott, he celebrates the occasion by attending church at Skidway Baptist Church with family and friends and eating a big, home cooked Sunday dinner.
"We always have a spiral ham and potatoes for Easter supper," he said with a smile." "I love my potatoes. I wish I had some of that home cooking now. Anything warm would be nice"
Blakely will have to settle for a lukewarm meal-ready-to-eat this year, though. The pork chop and mashed potato meal will be the closest he gets to his regular Easter meal.
Blakely said he'd remember the Easter he celebrated in Iraq, but it won't be like the fond memories of back home.
"My best Easter memory is hunting for eggs with my brother and sister, Joshua and Rose, when we were kids," he recalled. "Those are special memories."
Although he is away from home on Easter, Blakely said he's proud to be a part of an organization that's making a difference in other people's lives.
"I'm proud to be a Marine serving over here," he stated. "We are doing something that needs to be done."
Blakely and his fellow Marines stayed at the Government Center four days before returning to their home base at Camp Hurricane Point. Their service at the Government Center is important to Marines traveling the city's roads because they serve as watchdogs on the lookout for insurgents planting improvised explosive devices.
His normal day consists of standing a 12-hour post at an observation point on the rooftop of the building and patrolling the immediate area.
Blakely said he plans to put the skills he learned in the Corps to use in law enforcement when his enlistment ends.
"I'd like to be a state trooper back in Michigan."