20060602

Shared cigars bring Marines together in Fallujah

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq A thick billowy cloud of white smoke lingered in the air above the relaxed Marines. It was quitting time and Marines were enjoying a ritual of sortsMarines and sailors from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, take time at the end of their day to enjoy a good cigar at the chapel here.“It’s great,� said Sgt. Russel R. Ellman, an administration chief at Headquarters and Service Company. “It is kind of like having a barbecue back home with all of your buddies.�The men gather at the building one day a week to release some of the stress they encounter throughout the week.“It’s just a great way to bring the guys together in a relaxed environment,� said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas S. Pratt, a religious programmer who helped to get the weekly event started. “It can be very stressful for the guys out here, especially without their families. This allows them to come together and joke around to help ease all of that.�Pratt met with Navy Lt. Marc J. Bishop, the chaplain here, and discussed the idea to hold a cigar night. Before long he was on the internet looking for sponsors to donate cigars to the cause.“I saw a picture online of a bunch of Marines in Iraq smoking cigars and having a good time,� said Pratt, of Denver, Colo. “I started doing my research and found a place that would hopefully send us some cigars. Within a couple weeks, boxes and boxes of cigars started coming.�Flyers and word of the night quickly spread around the camp. After two of the nights, Marines here started showing up by the dozens.“When you put people in a social environment, they do not only talk about what they do, but who they really are,� explained Bishop, a Catholic priest. “It allows me to interact with Marines in an informal, less stressful environment, rather than engage them while they are in their work settings.� Errah! I need one of those now! Capt B
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