December 16, 2009

CHRISTMAS AT WAR

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

"The inherent generosity of Americans is also on full display during the Christmas season. In deployed areas right now, company command posts are flooded with care packages from their families and kind strangers."
-U.S. Army Infantry Captain Timothy Hsia, December 2008

As Americans debate the war in Afghanistan on the political front, the first unit of the President's recently announced troop surge, 1500 Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will deploy before Christmas. Here in Idaho, the National Guard 116th Combat Brigade is preparing for a possible deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, and according to Colonel Pete Lee, 366th Fighter Wing vice wing commander of Mountain Home Air Force Base, in a radio interview with 580 KIDO, there are currently 700 Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base deployed to 14 different countries around the world.

For many of these men and women who are or will be deployed, it will not be their first Christmas spent in a warzone. While we get wrapped up in the holiday season here at home, many of our service members don't get much of a holiday while working to defend our freedom. Christmas Day is just another day at work for those on duty, but one that is especially hard to spend away from home and loved ones. For those at who have made it home, it can also be difficult knowing that friends and comrades are still deployed and unable to spend Christmas with their families.

When most of us think of Christmas, we think of decorated Christmas trees with gifts underneath, a turkey feast with all the trimmings, holiday carols filling the air, and being surrounded by family and friends. For the families of those deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions around the world, Christmas can be one of the toughest times of year. The holidays are especially hard, however, for the families of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. For these families, and especially the children, the holiday season will never be the same.

As we get caught up in finishing our Christmas shopping and the commotion of the season, we often forget the true meaning of Christmas - giving of oneself. But our service members have made the spirit of the season a way of life. A willingness to selflessly sacrifice their own happiness for our safety and freedom is part of what makes our military so special - perhaps one of the most solemn and valuable Christmas presents that we, as a nation, can receive. As you spend this Christmas surrounded by friends and family, I ask that you pause and remember our service members who cannot share the holiday with their own family. 

Spending Christmas at War may have become common for our service members and their families, but there are things that we can do help them and show that we remember and appreciate what they are doing. One way to help Idaho's service members is to donate to the Idaho Guard and Reserve Family Support Fund, which was started in 2003 as a way to help family members during deployments. It has also been used recently to help members and their families through financial emergencies. In 2006, Idaho added a donation box to the state tax forms to allow Idahoans another way to donate. Let's make sure the generosity that Infantry Captain Hsia wrote about last December is still present for Christmas this year. Please go to http://crapo.senate.gov and www.ourmilitary.mil to find out more about how to donate and volunteer to support our deployed troops and their families.

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