Twentynine Palms, of San Bernadino County, California, is the home of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command. The terrain surrounding the base, east of the Yucca Valley and in the southern end of the Mojave desert, is isolated to say the least. For miles and miles, all there is to see is desert and mountains … and tanks.
Considered a young base, the average age being twenty-two years, 29 Palms is home to Marines of multiple commands—infantry, artillery, armor, et al.—many of which apply to the Single Marine Program (SMP). After minimal time with their first command, these Marines arrive at 29 Palms for training with no family and only each other for company.
It can be lonely and monotonous being a soldier, but it’s nothing a bit of Christmas cheer and Ruth’s Chris fare can’t fix!
We at Freedom Alliance agreed it was time to concentrate on 29 Palms, in particular the SMP—130 single men and women in desperate need of a decent party.
“Being in such a remote location, the Marines are limited on quality event opportunities here in 29 Palms,” said Major Sergeant Brookshire. “Freedom Alliance went above and beyond all expectations and hosted an outstanding dinner.”
Freedom Alliance met with the SMP coordinators and the people from Ruth’s Chris (Palm Desert) to figure out how to transform the 29 Palms gym into a festive venue for our steak dinner soiree.
With a few Christmas trees, wreaths, holly garland, and bows, the spirit of season was sweeping around this corner of the base. We offered heated outdoor seating as well, with decorations and entertainment. There were pre-dinner games outside, including an obstacle course race with overlarge tricycles and a pull-ups competition.
The buffet was abundant with steak, mashed and sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, cheesecake, and bread pudding. Thanks to projectors and giant movie screens, the Marines enjoyed Christmas films while they ate, in between trips to the buffet. Even Mrs. Claus made it to the event.
Lieutenant Corporal McCoy boasted, “Now, I love my mama. Understand? And she’s awesome on the grill, but she ain’t ever cooked a steak like this!”
Once the tables were cleared came the much-anticipated arrival of the game truck, which allowed a crowd of Marines to hop in and play interactive video games. The owner indulgently drove three hours through the dark desert and stayed four hours on base while the members of the SMP competed in the truck.
Sergeant Major Brookshire told us later, “By far this was the best dinner that has ever been hosted for our SMP.”
And the comments from the SMP fellows reiterated that sentiment. “Being from a snowy town in Jersey, getting in the Christmas spirit is hard in the hot desert,” said Private First Class Mullen. “This was great. Merry Christmas!” Another Marine commented, “Thanks for giving me a chance to celebrate Christmas.”
At the end of the night, these Marines returned satisfied to their barracks, full of Ruth’s Chris and high spirits.