On Christmas in 2007, I was at Balad Air Base in Iraq. I was the Officer in Charge of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team there, which means I was in charge of a bunch of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and medical administrative personnel who carried wounded warriors on cargo planes in and out of Balad Air Base. This was my second deployment to Iraq, but it was my first time to spend the fall and winter holidays away from home.
On Christmas Eve, about 10 of us went caroling. We weren’t sure if any other organizations on base were doing this, so we decided we would. We figured the patients at the military hospital and the military police who manned the guard shacks and towers would be the best places to spend our time that night. Everyone else wore uniforms, but I figured it was okay to break the rules a bit (we were required to always be in some sort of uniform, even during trips to the bathroom) and wear a Santa suit. Here’s a picture of us right before we headed to the base hospital:
Upon further reflection, I realize exactly why Silent Night is the song of choice for deployed military personnel: it’s the luxury that’s never realized in such circumstances. I longed for a silent night every night but never received one. Between mortar attacks, rockets, fighter planes, diesel engines, warning sirens, etc., the nights were anything but silent, and Christmas was no exception to the rule.
So, on this Christmas Day, I’m glad I get to enjoy a silent night and hope all of you do as well. And to those who continue to serve overseas as part of our gradually dwindling service personnel in combat zones, I hope your silent night comes quickly and that this is your last Christmas spent away from your family.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.