I am not skipping Christmas this year like I did last year.

You won't find a Scrooge here. You know the type: nothing you do can make him or her happy. He has strong opinions about everything, and it is rarely positive. No "bah-humbugs" from me.

How can anyone be "scroogy" at this time of year, with colorful decorations everywhere, pretty lights brightening up the night sky and parties with friends and loved ones to attend' Of course, I have bad moods like everyone else, but luckily my trials are now in perspective.

There are many families who won't have a Christmas tree this year because they can't afford one. There are many children who won't have presents because there is no one to take care of them and provide for them.

And there are many, many families who will have incomplete Christmases because they have loved ones deployed in a war zone and their only prayer is that their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers will come home safe.

This is where I was last year, when my mom and I skipped Christmas because my dad was deployed in Baghdad. My mom could not fathom the thought of spending the holiday at home without my dad; we didn't even get out the Christmas tree. Of all my 22 Christmases this had to be the worst. But we tried to make it as good as possible for my dad by sending him a box full of Christmas goodies, including a tree and wrapped gifts.

My mom and I on the other hand spent Christmas on a beach in Florida avoiding the reality that it really was Christmas, and my dad was not there to share it with us.

It doesn't sound all that bad, I guess - but for a small family that typically spends Christmas together carrying out family traditions together - it was. We spent Christmas Day on an airplane, instead of watching the Christmas parade on TV or having a ham dinner.

But this year is going to be different; this year, I am going home for Christmas and spending it with my family. This year we will have a tree, we will watch the parade on TV and this year ... this year, my dad will be home with us.

So I ask you to keep a few things in mind this year as you prepare for your holiday celebrations.
If you don't get that perfect Christmas gift this year, think about the Soldier in Iraq who doesn't have anyone to send him a gift or his mail didn't get to him before Christmas.

If your turkey wasn't all you wanted it to be, think about the Soldier who didn't get a turkey dinner this year because he was out patrolling the streets of Baghdad.

And when your family starts to drive you crazy, remember the Soldier who isn't spending Christmas with his family this year.

My dad, luckily, made it home safely. So this Christmas, my family will be praying for the safe return of all the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who have not made it home yet.

And, we will be thanking those who have made the ultimate sacrifice allowing us all to enjoy a safe Christmas with our families.