Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve Afghanistan Style

With Christmas Eve being on Sunday, it was only fitting that we had a special service. I was pleased to find out COL Smith fully supported having a non-denominational service. Brother Lecker, one of our group members suggested it to him and he immediately got on board.

Steve conducted since he was the senior group leader. Of course those non-LDS members had no clue why Steve was asked to conduct but it was still pretty cool to see him up there conducting this meeting.

COL Smith was wearing a Santa hat with his rank pinned on the front. When I saw that my opinion of him shot up immeasurably. He wasn’t worried about pretense or appearance, he was enjoying himself and getting into the spirit.

He opened the meeting by telling us about what happened that morning after the ANA morning briefing. He said that MG Mangal stood up and thanked every US service member in the room. He mentioned that it was Christmas and that it was a time that Americans celebrated with family and friends. He expressed his gratitude on behalf of his country to all of us who are here, away from family and friends, for the gift of freedom that we are giving to his people. COL Smith was obviously touched by MG Mangal’s gratitude. I’m glad he shared that experience with us.

Then came the singing. A quintent of officers, enlisted and one civilian approached the mike, all wearing Santa hats. They led us in singing several Christmas carols. As I looked around the room I was surprised but impressed at who was there. There were those who I would have never guessed would show up but they did. There were those who we wished would have come but didn’t.

After we sang several songs, Merrill got up and read the Christmas story out of the Bible. He did a great job. As I sat there and listened to his voice read, I couldn’t help but think of that night so many years ago and the experiences of Mary and Joseph. As I thought of the humble circumstances I see every day here, I thought of the conditions the Savior was born in and how they were probably not that different. I must admit that it made me grateful for the comfortable surroundings I have.

After Merrill finished reading, we sang a few more songs and then we were done.

We moved to our regular location to partake of the Sacrament and the rest remained to partake of the Eucharist. A Protestant Chaplain was there to perform that service.

As we gathered in our room, there were 8 of us; Me, Steve, Merrill, Larry, Steve, Ron, Bro. Mike and Mike. It was a small group compared to what we’ve had in the past but most of our brethren are down-range until April. We really miss them.

Despite the few numbers, the Sacrament was a wonderful thing to partake of on Christmas Eve. Steve shared a few words with us that were meaningful and heartfelt. Afterwards, we hugged, shook each others hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas. It was a great way to spend Christmas Eve.

At home we have a tradition that I started. From the very first time that I saw it, I have absolutely loved Mr. Krueger’s Christmas and I make my family watch it every Christmas Eve. This year was no exception, at least for me. I watched it in my room. Jimmy Stewart is such a wonderful actor (I had just finished watching It’s a Wonderful Life the day before – my favorite Christmas movie) and as he is kneeling in front of the Savior thanking him, telling him that He is his best friend and that he loves Him, my throat tightened up with emotion as I thought of my own feelings for the Savior. Then when Clarissa tells Mr. Krueger that she loves him, the same emotions come. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Love?

After that, I watched Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, or at least part of it, before I fell asleep. Why Robin Hood you ask? There’s only been one other time in my married life that I’ve been separated from my family at Christmas. It was my first year in the Navy. I had just finished up Naval Justice School around the 19th of December. Janae, Seth and Luke were still with her parents in Utah. Dallin and Memorie were getting married right after Christmas so I told Janae and the boys to stay until after the wedding. I was temporarily living in Officer’s Quarters on the Naval Base at Norfolk and was all alone. I rented a VCR from the front desk and about the only movie they had that was worth watching was Robin Hood. I now associate that movie with Christmas Eve as well. Since I was separated from my family on Christmas Eve due to the military, I had to watch Robin Hood. It was just as good as when I watched it on Christmas Eve 14 years ago. (Kevin Costner’s accent is still just as bad in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, that was my Christmas Eve.


Anonymous said...

Great story. I don't suppose you have an extra Book of Mormon? If you do, could you try to locate someone for me?

JAGMAN said...


I might be able to find one, no guarantees. However, unless they live here at Camp Blackhorse it would probably be faster if you just mailed one to them. I don't get away from Blackhorse much and the only other camp I go to is Phoenix.