Christmas Raises Spirits at TQ
Weary of Christmas woes, mostly a result of being away from family, I woke for an early Christmas dinner, expecting to be part of a few close knit people in the unit who agreed to eat dinner together. To my surprise when I emerged from the concrete castle-like fortress, known as home, I found almost all of the assigned unit assembled. Only a handful of were not in attendance, creating a scene as our herd of soldiers migrated to chow.
Once inside the chow hall, decorated for the season to include a nativity scene, a mock fireplace, and several paper streamers, red green and white in color, we tried to reserve tables in the same vicinity, but there were far too many of us to sit together. We ended up spreading out across about five rows of tables, sharing stories -- mostly the parental types talking of what their children had wanted for Christmas.
When done with dinner, it was a rush off to the flight line where, by the graces of many generous family, friends, and complete strangers, we had our own version of Christmas. From the previous two weeks there were boxes of cookies, pastries, and other sugary fattening baked goods that remind all of us of the holiday season. Some of us surmise this was the family members at home trying to fatten us back up to our pre-deployment physiques. (tidbit of info is many soldiers have lost several pounds while here -- some as much as 30)
Our Operations briefing room was the scene of the celebration, filled with as many gaudy decorations as could be sent via mail, to include one gift that arrived late last week -- a live Christmas tree. (No telling how much the Customs guy was paid off for it to slip through the postal system to a foreign country!) We gladly decorated the tree in every tacky ornament we could. Someone even made ornaments out of M-16 bullets. At the base of the tree were the hundreds of presents sent by a young lady who organized a present drive for those of us deployed. She requested her friends and family compile presents for deployed troops instead of giving her any Christmas gifts. There were so many presents that we invited other units including the air traffic controllers at TQ. They joined us for some present opening -- things like athletic socks, books, and soccer balls -- all from the gifts that were donated through the thoughtfulness of the young lady who donated all of the presents. (From all of us, Thank You!)
Another surprise came from a couple of the female soldiers in the unit. They took the time and money to wrap several gag gifts of small value for distribution on Christmas. One of the senior enlisted dressed as the Grinch, wearing a Santa suit, a tribute to the spirit of the season spent in Iraq. One by one the Grinch, dressed as Santa, called out the name of a soldier, issue the present, to have the soldier open the present in front of everybody. For example our newest pilot, only a few months out of flight school, received a t-shirt that said "Trust me I'm a pilot!" Each and every person was equally paraded in front of the group for their own dose of tough love, providing all of us a few laughs for the day. (From all of us at TQ, Thank You!)
Two other gifts were granted to the unit on Christmas. One being that we were not scheduled to fly for the eve of or Christmas day itself. We were grateful for the break, whether intentionally granted or not. Though the break was nice it too was trumped by one last gift -- the confirmation that the largest whole number measurement of time left in Iraq, can be measured in days! With that news our Christmas took its place in our deployment memories and we enjoyed our holiday!
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