Marine Corps Sends a Holiday Wish : The nation's '911' force, a part of which is Orange County, has been called on many missions this year; the latest is the rescue of Somalia and its starving people.

People from around the country and the world are drawn to Southern California, and specifically Orange County, for a multitude of reasons. Where else can one surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon underneath a blue Southern California sky?

Orange County is more than a recreational paradise, however. It's also a home for thousands of Marines, sailors and their families.

We send our children to Orange County schools, we are members of local congregations, and we become deeply involved in community events and affairs.

As Marines our mission is to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders of our commander in chief, the President of the United States. This mission takes us to every corner of the world not only to defend our nation and oppressed allies but also to assist the world's people who stand in need of humanitarian aid.

In just the last year, there have been missions in northern Iraq, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Florida, Hawaii, Cambodia and now, Somalia. As the "911" force of the nation, supported by the nation, when called upon we respond.

Our mission this time is in the Horn of Africa, to save lives in Somalia, a nation ripped apart by civil war and devastated by years of famine and drought.

Like most Americans, I'm thankful that our great nation has the means and opportunity to help. This same spirit of love and giving is apparent throughout Orange County.

When we deploy, our families depend heavily on your warmth and affection. Any significant deployment is a cooperative effort between the community and the Marine Corps.

More than 3,000 Marines and sailors, dozens of aircraft, tons of ammunition, food, fuel and equipment from El Toro and Tustin are presently in and on the way to Somalia. It's a major operation, and Orange County is heavily involved.

While there is danger in Operation Restore Hope, it is a mission of gigantic humanitarian proportions. A nation, a people, is starving to death. We can prevent this from happening.

Most of us, at times, forget what basic necessities really are, and while enough to eat for those in Somalia is a dream come true, we sometimes take it for granted.

In this country we've won the big lottery. Through no fault or credit of ours, we are lucky enough to have been born or to live in the United States of America. We live and prosper in a country not plagued by civil war, drought or famine. We must not take this for granted and, especially at this time of year, should remember how fortunate we are as a people because "there but for the grace of God. . . ."

Deployed Marines and sailors deeply appreciate the fact that our families remain behind in a community that cares for them. During Desert Storm the people of Orange County displayed over and over their wonderful hospitality, caring and concern for our families. Now, once again, Orange County has showered their support on the families of our deployed Marines.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank you, our wonderful neighbors.

From all of us here at the El Toro and Tustin air stations to all of you, our terrific neighbors in Orange County, warmest wishes and happy holidays from your Marine Corps.

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