Remember them at Christmas Posted by: McQ
on Friday, December 23, 2005
If you spent any time in the military, and were ever deployed, chances are you've spent a Christmas away from home and your loved ones. As I can personally attest, it's a tough time. Yet, as you'll see, it's also a good time in a sense. Because while you're not at home with your family, you are with those you have come to consider to be like a family. Some excerpts from a few of our finest who have written about Christmas in Iraq:
CPT Jerry Moon with the 101st Airborne Division:
As I gather my thoughts and the realization sets in that I will be spending another Christmas away from home, the fourth in the past five years, I am surprisingly upbeat. I am thankful for many things this year, but mostly I am humbled by that which surrounds me. You see, while I am unable to spend this joyous season at home with my family and friends, I still consider myself blessed to be able to spend time with friends and family of a different sort—my fellow deployed soldiers.
As a leader of soldiers, I am responsible for the morale and welfare of nearly a hundred of the best "kids" America has to offer. However, the truth is I often find it is their optimistic and enthusiastic disposition which recharges my batteries. These are soldiers who despite personal longings to be with their own families continue to serve their nation during her time of need. Perhaps what is most remarkable is they continue to do it holiday after holiday with little or no regard for their own personal comfort or safety. Many will spend a portion of their Christmas day out on patrol, manning a guard tower, or pulling another detail in order to afford their subordinate soldiers a few minutes of down time for what we all hope to be an uneventful day.
So this year I will again be surrounded by so many like me, in my home away from home, in the form of a tent barricaded on all sides by sandbags for protection from the ever-present mortar threat; however, I will likewise be surrounded by the friendship, camaraderie and esprit de corps found only within our ranks.
CPT Phillip Carter:
Unfortunately, the war doesn't stop for Christmas. Just as on any other day, soldiers will pull guard duty, man command posts and go out on missions. Still, my unit is planning to make this day as special as possible. One of my reserve soldiers works as a chef back home. We're putting his culinary skills to work by having him prepare a Christmas feast. The officers and senior sergeants will pull guard shift for our junior soldiers, and we will also serve the meal. This is a tradition observed in most U.S. Army units around the world, but it has special meaning here in combat because it gives us (as leaders) a tangible way to thank our soldiers. Our unit's chaplain will hold services for the soldiers who want to attend. We're also planning a small party with holiday cookies, music and decorations sent from home.
CPT Noah Hanners:
Christmas is a bittersweet time in Iraq. It brings the same feelings of numbness and distance that come with each holiday spent away from home. I'll celebrate with the rest of the soldiers in our troop at our base in downtown Tal Afar. We'll continue our normal missions throughout the day, delivering humanitarian aid with the help of the Iraqi Army and police. We'll probably conduct a raid or two in search of terrorists. Maybe I'll wear a Santa hat over my helmet on a patrol to make my family smile when they see the pictures and to let them know what I was doing on Christmas Day.
My fellow soldiers and I will enjoy each other's company, we'll laugh and joke, but we'll be celebrating more to feel a connection to home and our families. We'll have a Christmas tree and lights but they won't compare to those at home. We'll have a big, traditional Christmas dinner but we'll be eating with plastic silverware on a shaky, plywood table.
It's a bittersweet time for anyone deployed during a holiday, but especially Christmas. Christmas is "home". Christmas is "family". Christmas is love and giving. Christmas is togetherness.
For our troops, there will be a form of "home" and "family". It will be their extended military family. Leaders, as pointed out by CPT Carter, will do all they can to make it a special day for their troops. The least we can do is to keep them in our thoughts and prayers that day, and to say a special thanks to them for their service.
I spent 3 consecutive Christmases away from home during my Army days - one of them in DaNang as an infantry rifle platoon leader, another in Germany (accompanied by wife and daughter) and another in a training unit. No matter where you are, you long for home, family, friends, and the traditions you grew up with. My heart goes out to all our tremendous military men and women at this time of year especially. You’re in my prayers. Thank you for your service.