Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Deployed Holidays

There’s something bitter-sweet about holidays when you are deployed.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas is just around the corner. Holiday lights and Christmas trees decorate the hospital and offices and hootches, alongside weapons and body armor, patients, medical equipment and supplies.

Thanksgiving on FOB Salerno was just like any other day, except for the meal. The Dining Facility went all-out, and did a great job. The lines were long for turkey, roast beef, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, ice cream, coffee, tea, soda or water. But before and after, there was still work to do. The patients still come, holiday or not, and for a hospital the mission never stops.

Now, the decorations are popping up all around the FOB (but no outside lights on FOB Salerno!) and Christmas music is heard wherever you go. Naturally, everyone begins to think of home and family and all they are missing while they are away. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas with our deployed family, we think about our families back home.

For the Soldiers of the 396th Combat Support Hospital, our time in Afghanistan is drawing to a close. Since most of the 396th CSH Soldiers will be home soon after Christmas, many are planning a late Christmas celebration. At home the trees will stay up and many of the presents will remain unopened until their Soldier returns home, and then the celebration will make up for all the holidays missed over the last year!

When I was deployed to Iraq in 2003 my family and I celebrated Christmas together over Thanksgiving weekend while I was home on R&R leave, then again separately in December. Since I’m not coming home from Afghanistan until April, and my R&R leave was in October, this Christmas will be subdued for me and for my family back home as we celebrate anther holiday apart.

I think a little austerity at Christmas is good; it makes me thankful for all I have. While the Christmas carols play in the emergency room, singing of peace on earth, we treat patients with gunshot wounds and blast injuries from IED and RPGs. While we shop and send home gifts for our children, we think of the many Afghan children we treat; the amputees, the orphans, the sick, the malnourished, the scared and lonely and hopeless. While we line up for Christmas dinner, we think of those children who go to bed hungry every night, and the parents who worry about them and their future. Yes, a little austerity is good.

And we end the holidays with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Traditionally, these days for looking back to reflect upon all we have accomplished in the last year, and looking forward to all we can expect in the year to come. For us, we will look back and reflect on all we have accomplished; the patients treated, the friendships made, fears overcome and the loneliness endured. And we will look forward to the year to come, and pray for peace on earth so our sons and daughters and friends and relatives do not have to leave home and family to fight in foreign lands. The realists among us will say this is just a dream, but it’s a dream that we dare not let die, for if we stop dreaming of peace we must resign ourselves to continual war. Afghanistan is truly a place were you can see firsthand the consequences of war, continual and violent and unpredictable. It is impossible for anything to flourish in the poisoned soil of war and violence and death.

Progress requires peace and safety and security.

Well, that’s probably enough philosophy for one blog entry. I don’t write often enough, but I write whenever I feel I have something to say.

Thank you for reading, thank you for caring and thank you for praying of me and my Soldiers and Airmen and patients.

And don't worry, pictures will be added shortly.

Phillips, out.

(pictures now added!)


margo said...

Hey! You left this mom teary eyed! Good Job! I am proud that my son is a part of trying to provide the security necessary. I do so appreciate knowing that the best of the best are there to care for him should he need it.

I hope that for some obscure reason, this is the best Christmas you have ever had!

It could happen!

Thank you!

mikentexas said...

Until you and your compatriots are home, Christmas will always include a lot of prayers for your safety and for a successful mission.
Whether A-stan becomes a functioning nation or devolves into chaos again is above both our pay grades. We can only do the task we are called to do.
Soldier on!

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/05/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Anonymous said...

"It is impossible for anything to flourish in the poisoned soil of war and violence and death."

I hope this belief is just a temporary condition, and you are soon able to see "good" begin and recondition the poisoned soil because of the actions of you and your people.

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