Green zone
Floyd Lee, the dining facility's senior supervisor, leads his staff in a "pre-serving" cheer prior to the start of Christmas Day dinner at the U.S. Embassy dining facility in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD (Multi-National Force-Iraq, Dec. 26, 2006) - On Christmas Day about 146,000 Coalition troops in Iraq went to work like they do every day. However, even in the midst of war, holiday traditions survive.

On Christmas Day civilian and military personnel who live in the International Zone gathered in the U.S. Embassy dining facility to eat a traditional Christmas dinner.

The dining facility staff understands that one of the most treasured Christmas traditions is gathering with family and friends to eat dinner.

"People are away from home and loved ones, so we want to provide them with a traditional Christmas meal to make them feel a little closer to their homes and families," said Floyd Lee, the dining facility's senior supervisor. Lee and his staff began preparing for the Christmas feast as soon as Thanksgiving was over, he said. The feast was not the only event enjoyed in the IZ.

Although civilian and military personnel could not be home to open gifts, many of them opened presents sent from home and the presents they received from their "family" here in Baghdad.

"All during the year we work together seven days a week, and we become very close like a family," Lee said. "So at Christmas time, we have two families, one at home, and one here."

Soldiers also displayed their talents to spread joy and highlight the season. "We had a Christmas party with a live band made up of members of our unit. Our Family Readiness Group knitted stockings filled with Christmas goodies and sent them to us. It was a real nice touch," said Capt. Nathan Wilder of the 101st Airborne Division.

During the holiday meal, it became evident that being deployed for Christmas had a different meaning for everyone.

Some people are old hands at dealing with Christmas deployments, said Lt. Col. Cheryl Brady, Multi-National Force-Iraq, who has been deployed to the Middle East before. "I was here Christmas of 1990 for Desert Shield. My faith helps me focus on the reason for the season," she said.

For others, Christmas was just like any other day. "The days here blur together," said Lance Cpl. Matt Thompson, Marine Security Force. "I didn't realize that it was Christmas until someone told me."

While servicemembers and civilians celebrated Christmas in Baghdad, they shared silent thoughts of their family as they prayed they would be home next Christmas.

Page last updated Tue December 26th, 2006 at 14:29