AL KUT, Iraq -- The day began with darkness for 18 Marines and Sailors who walked to the end of the airstrip for a sunrise service to celebrate Easter Sunday. Normally, Marines and Sailors here are greeted with spectacular sunrises. But, an unusual overcast sky to begin this Easter could not dampen the spirits of the early morning worshippers.
"We started the morning of Easter Sunday at 4 a.m., and we took a little pilgrimage down the runway to 8th Engineer Support Battalion for a sunrise service," said Cmdr. James M. Hightower, Task Force Tarawa chaplain.
As they went down the runway, Hightower recited prayers and sang hymns before finally reaching the end of the runway.
They were met by approximately 40 other Easter Sunday worshippers, led by Lt. Cmdr. Ruben A. Ortiz, 8th ESB chaplain, a Puerto Rico native, who now calls Middleburg, Fla. home.
Following services, there was a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, western potatoes, gravy and fruit juice. The meal was a welcome change after 35 days of military "Meals Ready to Eat."
For those Marines that weren't able to make the morning pilgrimage, there was another service held later in the morning.
The day of service had only just begun for Hightower who, for the remainder of the day, traveled through Al Kut to visit other Marines encamped across the city.
Hightower made stops at 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment and a command center in the city.
"We wrapped up the day with singing, sharing a scripture, and communion," he said. "It's been a very productive and peaceful Easter Day."