HADITHA, Iraq -- Any duration of time away from friends and family can take a toll on the hearts and minds of all those involved. The recent surges of deployments to Iraq are no different for service members and their families. While some wish to never deploy again after their first of second tours, some Marines look forward to their deployments.
Such is the case of Gunnery Sgt. Eugene Holiday Jr., radio chief, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who is voluntarily back in Iraq for his seventh time.
Holiday realized in 1992, during his senior year of high school, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a Marine.
“My father was actually disappointed when I decided to join because he wanted me to take one of the football scholarships I had been offered and go to college,” said the Jasper, Ala., native. “I had a friend who took a football scholarship the year before and during his first year of college he was injured and had nothing to fall back on, and I didn’t want to take that chance, so I decided the Marine Corps would be a better decision.”
Holiday left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., Aug. 3, 1992 where he began recruit training with 2nd Battalion, Platoon 2098.
“When I went to boot camp I joined as open contract because I honestly didn’t care what job I got as long as I was a Marine,” he said. “When I found out I was put into the communication field I was pretty happy because it was a technical job.”
Upon completion of basic training Holiday checked into 3rd Surveillance Intelligence Group, Okinawa, Japan.
During his service in the Corps, he has performed recruiting duty in Atlanta and has been on many deployments with various units.
“This is actually my seventh time to Iraq, but only my second full deployment,” said the 32-year-old. “With my previous units we would come to Iraq for only a few months at a time. I actually left Joint Forces in Norfolk, Va., to deploy with 1/3 because I figured it would enhance my career and to have the chance to lead Marines again. At Joint Forces I was always leaving out of nowhere, but with 1/3 I’ll be gone for seven months and will return to my family. It’s a lot more stable.
“Aside from that, I love being with 1/3 because compared to my other units 1/3 is no stranger to deploying and the Marines know what to do and what is expected of them.”
Holiday said he likes to do what the Marine Corps expects from him, but has been deployed every year since his son was born five years ago.
“The hardest part is being away from my wife and son,” he said. “ It’s time that I’ll never get back, but receiving letters and emails from them is something that pushes me and keeps my morale up.”
The current deployment has proven both challenging and demanding for Holiday because his platoon fell in on a communication network that has been in existence for two years and is difficult to maintain.
Holiday said it’s the Marines who work under who keep the communication up and running, and that is the highlight of the deployment for him.
Lance Cpl. Kevin A. Lawrence, a radio operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3, described Holiday to be very passionate at his job.
“He can be very serious at times but is still able to allow people to feel comfortable around him,” said Lawrence, a Hartford, Conn., native.
Lawrence added since Holiday has worked with him, he has seen their platoon grow tighter and work has become a lot more enjoyable.
“A lot of people think the key to communication is push to talk, but there’s a lot more to it,” he added. “I tell people all the time, we work all night so you can talk all day.”
Holiday said he looks forward to returning home in October and reuniting with his family.
“I plan on staying in the Marines for twenty years and then retiring,” he said. “Once I’m retired I’d like to continue my career in the communication field and spending as much time as possible with my family.”
First Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment is a part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, Sailors and Soldiers in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.