It's officially Christmas here in Iraq.
It doesn't really seem like Christmas. Sure, a lot of guys have some little token of the season in their rooms or spilling over into the hallways- there's little trees and some garlands. There's some stockings that someone in the states sent over for the soldiers lying undistributed in a box. Christmas spirit is sure trying to get into the air, but it's hard to get into it in the middle of a war. The fighting doesn't stop for us just because it happens to be Christmas. It never has. The Bible story about Jesus' birth says that the king's response to the news was to go and kill all the children of the appropriate age he could find to eliminate the threat to his crown. For all the elements of the holiday that are missed over here, the bloodshed angle sure managed to stick around. In this counterinsurgency that we are fighting, we try to accommodate Muslim holidays and traditions to the extent we can. Our enemy gives no such ground on Christmas or any other holiday, and we neither expect him to do so, nor do we relax and wait for him to attack. The missions and the gunfire and the explosions don't stop; we just have Christmas in the midst of them.
It sucks, yes. But it's still Christmas. I can tell by the tune I hear a Marine humming as he splashes through the mud. I can tell by the boxes spilling into the halls, filled with treats and gifts from people far away. I can tell it from the cards schoolchildren send to wish their heroes well.
I've had a couple people tell me they feel guilty for being at home with families over the holidays while so many people they know serve overseas. Here's what I want to say to you this Christmas:
Don't worry about us today. Relax in your fire-warmed homes. Cut the bows and tear open the packages. Call the grandparents. Shovel the driveway and then build a snowman. Dig into the potatoes and have an extra slice of ham. Share a kiss under the mistletoe. Drink up the eggnog, and don't forget to raise a toast for your soldier far away.
Make sure everything is well at home- we'll take care of things here.