KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Commander, U.S. Marine Forces Central Command completed a visit to the United States Embassy here recently, during which he praised the security efforts of 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) and the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
"(The ambassador) told me that he could not be here, his staff could not be here, he could not get the job done if Kilo Company, 3/8 wasn't here," said Lt.Gen. Earl Hailston, speaking to Marines assembled in the embassy's main foyer.
During a short formation prior to the remarks, Hailston presented Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals to Cpl. Heath Zemler of Spokane, Wash., Lance Cpl. William Jay of Elkhart, Ind., and Lance Cpl. James Mink of Wauchula, Fla.
The three Marines were cited for superior performance of duties in conducting numerous vehicle, personnel, equipment and parcel searches while assigned to the guard force. The Marines were further recognized for providing both a visual and physical deterrent to terrorist potential activity aimed at the American Embassy.
"(The Ambassador) wouldn't feel safe if we didn't have people like Mink, Jay and Zemler, and (all of you) standing out on those posts...to protect the people we're here to protect," Hailston remarked. "Do we do it right? The answer upstairs from the people you are protecting is yes, you are."
According to Zemler, the award was a both surprise and a great morale boost. "I didn't expect it," explained the 22-year-old infantryman. "I'm just doing a job that protects people and keeps the embassy safe. It (the recognition) felt really good."
Jay echoed Zemler's views on the importance of safeguarding the embassy, adding that he was "surprised and shocked" to receive the medal.
For Lance Cpl. Mink, the recognition was an honor. "I was so happy to receive an award that was recommended by my peers and platoon leadership," said the 21-year-old Mink, who has served three years in the Marine Corps. "I really appreciated it. This has been the greatest."
In his closing comments, Hailston placed the importance of the Marines' mission in Afghanistan into a historical context. "Your kids are going to ask you, 'What were you doing there, dad?'" he said. "And you can tell them, 'I helped keep the embassy open so that the U.S. was present to help a country stand up on its feet and get going again.'"