Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division
Story by Lance Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez
CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Homesickness is a common enemy of U.S. Marines in a combat zone. Keepsakes from loved ones and photographs of treasured memories help keep this foe at bay.
But when holidays like Halloween come around, it’s not always enough.
Sergeant Michael A. Kinne, a 27-year-old assistant fires chief with Regimental Combat Team 5, found a unique way to fight this sickness:
He carved a Batman-themed Jack-O-Lantern, in the spirit of his favorite holiday and comic book character.
“One of our officers got a bunch of Styrofoam pumpkins in the mail,” said Kinne, a native of Neenah, Wis. “He came to our team and said, ‘Why don’t we don’t we shake up the rut a little bit. Everybody has to find a different design for these pumpkins.’”
Kinne credits “Batman: Arkham Asylum”, a videogame based on the pop culture phenomenon created by D.C. Comics, for his inspiration.
“I played around with a few designs I came up with,” said Kinne. “Then I asked myself, ‘what’s the most gruesome looking Batman symbol I’ve seen yet?’ I thought of Arkham Asylum.”
His love of the Dark Knight grew through television shows, comic books and Halloween costumes over the years.
“Batman’s just a guy. He’s a hero, but he still gets beat up all the time,” said Kinne. “He saw something that needed to be done, knew he had the power, and he went on to fix it.”
“I learned quickly that in the Marine Corps, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” said Kinne. “We’re all supposed to look around and seize things that need to be done, not just turn around and walk away like the average person.”
His emulation of this mindset is clearly visible in the performance of his duties.
“He’s always been about Batman, ever since I’ve met him,” said Capt. Jiemar Patacsil, a 34-year-old fire support coordinator with RCT-5 and native of Oxnard, Calif. “He’s a sergeant fulfilling a staff sergeant’s billet, and I have full confidence in letting him handle things out there. He has great initiative especially when it comes to taking care of his Marines.”
Kinne also credits his wife Heather for fueling his fascination with Gotham’s guardian. She’s given him many pieces of Bat-memorabilia, such as toothbrushes, lunchboxes and even a handmade Batman blanket, he said.
The time spent carving the newest addition to his collection gave Kinne an opportunity to reminisce about his family and their time spent together on his favorite holiday.
“I come from a big family, and carving the pumpkin brought back memories of us carving around the dinner table,” said Kinne. “I also remembered the first time my wife and I carved for our family. We each had a big one, and a little one for our son.”
“We carved ours out, and we had our son put his handprints on his. We went to take pictures of them in our bathroom, the darkest place in our house. We left them in there, which was a rookie mistake. The humidity got to them and when we woke up in the morning, we had sunken Jack-O-Lanterns,” he recalled.
This Halloween isn’t Kinne’s first time away from Heather and their three-year-old son, Max. His first deployment to Afghanistan was in 2006. He has also served tours in Iraq, Jordan and spent a year in Okinawa.
“I missed Max’s first Halloween,” said Kinne. “For his second one, we went trick-or-treating with a few of our friends and their kids. He dressed up as Batman and one of his friends came out as Robin. We even put together a wagon I got for his birthday, and made it into the Bat-mobile.”
Aside from trick-or-treating with the family, the feeling of a community coming together is one of the best parts about Halloween, Kinne added.
With diligence, determination and some inspiration from his favorite hero, Kinne fights off homesickness.
As for the pumpkin? Kinne and his Marines plan to keep their Jack-O-Lanterns out to bring the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve to Afghanistan.
Editor’s note: RCT-5 is assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.