Like many men and women in the service, Eric Campbell of Mayer will be spending Christmas on-the-job, overseas.
Christmas Day will be “business as usual,” Campbell said, who is serving in Djibouti, Africa. “I don’t mind though, it comes with the job.”
Campbell’s mission in Djibouti is to build on a relationship with the Djiboutian locals through aiding them in various humanitarian missions and to deter terrorists from establishing a stronghold.
Locals do not celebrate Christmas, as the majority of the population in Djibouti is Muslim, which means that Ramadan is a big celebration. Ramadan was celebrated during September.
In sharp contrast to the American holiday season where food is of utmost importance, during the Ramadan celebration, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight.
“To be courteous, we made sure we didn’t eat or drink in front of them,” Campbell said.
A lot of Marines who work with Campbell have spouses and children, which makes the holiday season more difficult, Campbell said.
“I do miss being home, and anyone that didn’t miss home wouldn’t be telling the truth,” Campbell said. “Everyone feels a little lonesome.”
Campbell knew that the culture shock would be dramatic, but was still unprepared for the extreme level of poverty he encountered. A common form of shelter for locals consists of a couple sheets of corrugated metal put together.
The temperature was another shock for Campbell. When he first arrived, the temperature was reaching 120 degrees.
“Fortunately, we came at the end of the hot season and a typical day now is around 85 to 90 degrees,” Campbell said.
Despite the heat, Campbell still enjoys playing soccer with local Djiboutian teenagers, as part of the Marines’ civil affairs mission in Djibouti.
“It was truly amazing, and one of those moments that I had to take a step back and think, here I am, in Djibouti, Africa, playing soccer with the locals, I never thought I’d be able to say that.” Campbell said.
Campbell is impressed by how easy it has been to communicate with friends and family in the US. He usually calls home weekly and communicates through e-mail often.
“Someone who served overseas 20 or 30 years ago wouldn’t believe how easy it is,” Campbell said.
The Djiboutians have responded well to the Marines and express appreciation for the things done for them.
“The US is making a profound impact on the lives of the people here, and I am proud to be a small part of it,” Campbell added.