FALLUJAH, Iraq --
On Christmas Eve, a military aircraft flew in from Baghdad landing at Camp Fallujah transporting special cargo for one fortunate Marine; his father.
The chance to spend Christmas together was one they didn’t take for granted and were fully aware of what a privilege it was for them.
“I’d bicycle from Baghdad to be here,” said Paul Charbonneau, the father of 22-year-old, Owasso, Okla. native Cpl. Paul J. Charbonneau, a squad leader with 4th platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6.
Paul, a senior manager for a telecommunications company working in Iraq, was happy to take full advantage of the opportunity to spend Christmas with his son in Iraq half way around the world from home.
Throughout the course of the past month, Cpl. Charbonneau made sure that he took the proper procedures to request and coordinate his father’s visit through his chain of command. Everyone was very supportive of having his father visit for the holiday, he said.
It’s the first Christmas Cpl. Charbonneau has spent away from home, but fortunately not completely without family. He said he realized how fortunate he was to have such an opportunity to spend time with his father, knowing how unlikely it was that any of his fellow Marines would be doing the same.
“It was probably a little strange for people to see us together,” said Paul. “We were hugging on the way back from the chow hall, so I’m sure that impressed a few people.”
As they enjoyed a Christmas dinner together, they caught up on family news and shared stories about their experiences in Iraq.
Cpl. Charbonneau’s introduced his father to some of the Marines that he had heard much about.
“It’s nice to put faces to the names,” said Paul.
“You hear the stories, but until you meet the Marine you don’t fully understand the personality behind the story,” he said.
Both have returned to Iraq on consecutive trips to continue with U.S. efforts to stabilize the country. Their jobs are completely separate, but similar. What they’re jobs have in common is they both carry the responsibility of training Iraqis.
Cpl. Charbonneau is on his second tour in Iraq. In recent weeks, he was promoted to the position of a squad leader. He’s responsible for leading his Marines on combat patrols through the market area of Fallujah, the busiest section of the city. He and his Marines maintain security and train Iraqi police in doing the same.
“It’s time for transition right now,” said Cpl. Charbonneau. “We’re training the Iraqi police on how to properly do everything and it’s really hard, but we’ll get it done, slowly but surely. We’ll get things back to where they can run everything by themselves.”
“It’s the same thing we’re doing with communications network,” said Paul, who is working toward the end of third trip to Iraq.
Mr. Charbonneau’s job entails training Iraqis to maintain cellular networks for the Department of State and Department of Defense across the country.
“The Ministry of Defense will eventually completely turn over to the Iraqis and we’re in the process of training them to make sure they can proficiently take over,” said Mr. Charbonneau.
Mr. Charbonneau went on to say that business has turned around in the country and attributed it to the job the service members, such as his son, are and have been doing.
“It doesn’t come accidentally,” he said. “It’s the right strategy and maneuver along the way. We’re seeing some positive here.”
Mr. Charbonneau admitted he encouraged his son’s decision to join the military in some way and said he couldn’t be prouder of his son.
“It really makes a difference in the long run with responsibilities and leadership traits you won’t get anywhere else,” Mr. Charbonneau said. “I’m always worried, but that’s part of the ballgame. I know he’s safe as he can be and I trust the Marines that he is with.”
A former naval man having served 10 years in the Navy working in communications, the older Charbonneau said his wife was no stranger to long distance relations with him because of deployments. But, it doesn’t make it any easier on her having both her son and husband abroad, though she was glad to know that the two of them got to spend the holiday together.
After the two days they spent together, they hope to see one another again back at home before either one of them return to Iraq again.
“It will be a whirlwind again,” Mr. Charbonneau said expressing the short passing they share.