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During the holidays, don’t forget troops serving abroad

By Staff | Dec 19, 2008

During the holidays it is appropriate for Americans to reflect upon our nation and our troops serving in distant lands. After all, America s character and decency are embodied in our armed forces.

In this season of hope, I want to say how personally uplifting it has been to serve with so many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines during the past six months. These selfless volunteers for the defense of freedom are a source of pride and inspiration to millions around the globe.

Also, let us not forget the families of our military service members, most especially the children Not having loved ones near during the holiday season is difficult enough, but the hardship for a child of not having mom or dad around is especially rough.

Seeing Iraqi families prepare for Christmas has reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas. Here in Iraq, Christian families gather together holding lighted candles on Christmas Eve and listen to a child read about the birth of Jesus.

After the reading, a bonfire of thorn bushes is lit and the entire family sings Christmas carols. After the fire dies, each person jumps over the embers three times and makes a wish.

On Christmas, another bonfire is lit outside of the church. The pastor leads the service while carrying a figurine of Baby Jesus.

After the service, the pastor blesses one person with a touch. That person then touches the person next to him or her. This touching continues until all present have felt the touch of peace.

Needless to say, I will miss seeing my wife and four children open their gifts on Christmas morning. Nevertheless, I know that I am not the first person from Shepherdstown to serve in a war zone during the holidays. Just as it did for those who have served before me, the spirit of Christmas and the memories of past Christmases will give me inspiration this holiday season.

I also receive strength from the dedicated and courageous men and women that I am privileged to serve with. One of the most touching moments of my current tour of duty was when my team and I spontaneously sang Silent Night over the sound of the engine and blades of our Blackhawk helicopter while flying over the desert.

Let us all hope and pray for the Christmas when there truly is peace on earth.

– Tom Maiden lives in Shepherdstown with his wife and four children. When not serving as a Citizen Sailor , Tom works part-time teaching insurance & financial planning at Shepherd University and owns a financial planning practice in Shepherdstown.