Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Soldier's Christmas Wishes Don't Change

This picture was taken last year at Camp Taqaddum near Fallujah, Iraq. The lone chair sitting next to the decorated tree would be a hot seat for many camera shy soldiers who would warm it while stumbling tongue-tied through sincerely homesick Christmas wishes captured on video for their families and friends. This brightly decorated corner of a dreary building in a far-away land was a small physical display of the meaning that the holidays held for these soldiers who had already been "in-country" for ten months.

Some of their thoughts were captured in these exerpts I will share with you. In a newsletter home Battalion members wrote:

Families of blood, sweat, and toil...
"Christmas is a more than a little different this year…..or not. In the words of Joe Ketcher “you have to make do with the family you have here”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Lights hang in the hall, a tree in the day room, and shopping at the click of a button. Though it is still hard, my family here will make this season easier than I thought.

This is my first Christmas away from home, but sometimes you have to make the best of what you have. Since I can’t be at home I am glad that I am here with the family I have developed over the past year."

SPC Melissa Norwood
Some things (though griped about) are still wistfully missed...
"As we get closer to Christmas, I would like to take this opportunity to review some of the joyous seasonal activities that we are missing at home. Many of us have children and are missing the small child begging for a week to go to the mall and see Santa. We get to the mall and wait in line for about three hours, when we finally get to see Santa either the child starts to cry uncontrollably or just sits there like a log and stares. This leads me to the mall in general.

Is this not the greatest place in the world to get into the holiday spirit? Rude people that push and shove just to get a toy that the child will only play with for about 2.3 minutes prior to it breaking beyond repair. Another thing that I am missing so much that it causes me to weep in my rack late at night is the holiday traffic. I miss going down 71st Street (i.e., Tulsa, OK). I really miss that it takes about 45 minutes to go about 4 miles. I am also going to miss the family get-togethers. Relatives that you don’t know showing up and making you feel guilty because you don’t have a gift to give them, your aunt giving everyone their annual fruit cake, and the uncle that tells everyone that he has one of whatever just like it and spends the next 2 hours describing how to use it and the virtues of whatever trinket it is that you just received. I hope this helps all of you feel all-festive and stuff. Ultimately, I guess I just need to say Merry Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight. Looking for the star to follow home."

SPC Wayne Powell
Be careful or you'll shoot out your eye...
"We all have Christmas stories that have shaped our attitude, feelings, and emotions over Christmas. An extreme example is from the movie, A Christmas Story – a movie that still makes me laugh after 20 years. Ralph (or Ralphie) is on a quest to get a Red Ride Bee-Bee Gun for Christmas. The gag line through the whole movie is “you’ll shoot your eye out,” every time he tries to convince someone he needs his Red Rider Bee-Bee gun. Well, Ralph gets his Bee-Bee gun and almost shoots his eye out. There are several other great sub-plots through the movie - the leg lamp, the Bumpus’s dogs, Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and the foul-mouthed but loving father.

We all have our Christmas stories. My story is about a 10-speed bike; quite a novelty in the 1970s. I wrote Santa Claus and asked for a 10-speed bike. My brother was all over me about how I would never get a 10-speed bike from Santa. On Christmas morning, I woke-up and to my great surprise after all the badgering from my brother there was the bike. I woke-up my brother and showed him the bike. He was furious. I do not think he ever got over that I got a bike from “Santa”. I did not shoot my eye out that Christmas but I am sure my brother wanted to blacken both of them.

So now, I find myself in Iraq for Christmas wondering how this will fit into my family’s Christmas stories. I have a pistol and a rifle given to me by the government and have a better than 50-50 chance to shoot my eye out; guess that is why they gave me Wiley-X eye protection. Therefore, my story for this year will be how I spent Christmas with a splendid group of soldiers and marines in Iraq so others could be with their families and friends. It is our gift to America and our families. Someday they will repay our families and us the favor. Moreover, let us not forget that Christmas is a celebration of faith, hope, and love provided to us by the Lord – the greatest gifts ever given to any person. God bless, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and we will see you shortly. Make some wonderful Christmas stories for us this year."

Major Mark Clifton

To these soldiers and those they served with in the Oklahoma National Guard 120th Engineering Battalion I wish a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. They are fortunate to enjoy this year's Christmas with their families, which is the one true wish of all servicemen in the world.

To those who serve - thank you and God Bless - we wish you all were home.

posted by Is It Just Me? at 1:58 PM