FORT DETRICK, Md. -- The winter holidays are a joyous time of year. Many give gifts to loved ones, spend time with family or simply celebrate their faith as the “reason for the season.”
Observing our collective diversity, U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command and its direct reporting units celebrate its workforce and the many ways they choose to enjoy the holidays -- be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any other occasion.
In other words, the more the merrier!
Oumar Coulibaly’s family traces its roots to Mali in West Africa. His parents were Muslim, but the family always embraced American traditions, including the Christmas holiday, in the states.
“They didn’t want me to feel left out at school … so they made sure despite not being Christians that we would embrace the holiday,” he said. “Today, I don’t celebrate it as much, but I definitely want to continue the tradition once I have a family of my own.”
At Christmas time, Coulibaly said his family would get the customary tree and decorate their whole house. His father would put two presents under the tree each day of December.
“One for me and the other for my sister,” said Coulibaly, a civilian HR employee at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, one of three AMLC direct reporting units. “By the time Christmas arrived, we would both be spoiled with lots of presents.”
Sgt. 1st Class Tie Wu, incoming USAMMA detachment sergeant, has a similar story in that his family also hails from outside the U.S., coming from China. And while he and his wife don’t have a religious preference, they, too, assimilated with traditional Christmas celebrations.
“We often conduct our celebrations by having family meals with close relatives and, in contrary to Chinese culture, we do not like to travel during the holidays,” Wu said. “I personally like to be with my family, enjoying good meals and remembering the good lives we all have.”
Wu said his family does decorate a Christmas tree, featuring different items to recognize significant events and ideas of the year in remembrance, but doesn’t do much other decorating or light off fireworks like other typical Chinese-American households.
“The holiday season to me is a harmonious time of rest, reunion and reflection of our lives of the year while remain grateful of everything we have,” he said.
In a country known for being a giant melting pot of culture, Wu said he’s proud to recognize American traditions while serving in Army, a diverse organization that embodies the many cultures and backgrounds of American citizens.
“As an American Soldier who lives and breathes the American ways, I do firmly believe that traditional American holidays need to be emphasized over others and prioritized so that they will be preserved for generations to come,” he said.
For Todd Bishop, the holidays don’t really begin until he and his wife, Michelle, watch one of their favorite movies, “The Ref.”
Bishop, director of USAMMA’s Business Support Office, said he enjoys the holiday get-togethers with his blended family. The biracial couple got married when Bishop was a single father of two. Since then, they have added a son together, Joshua.
“We always stay home and all of our children and their families come to our house for a wonderful meal,” he said. “We’ve often had other families join us at our holiday meals, as well.”
One tradition the family keeps is to buy their children a Christmas ornament for the tree each year. Each box is marked with the child’s name and year it was purchased.
“We now have ornaments that have been stored in their original boxes for up to 36 years,” Bishop said.
One thing that many folks may neglect around the holidays is exercise. But don’t include Tiwana Sears in that mix.
Sears, a USAMMA supply technician, is an avid runner and likes to celebrate many holidays by first getting in some miles.
“But I don’t just run,” she said. “I like to dress up in the theme and play with numbers by trying to run the date in mileage. On Veterans Day, for example, I love running an 11:11-minute mile. … On Christmas Day, I dress up as an elf and run in full gear just always hoping to put a smile on anyone’s face.”
Similar to the Bishops, Sears, who is of Caribbean descent, celebrates with her husband and her two stepchildren.
“We are of non-denominational faith, with a little Caribbean culture mixed in,” she said. “My husband is white, I am black, our children are mixed, and this makes all our holidays very colorful.”
That Caribbean heritage comes through in the holiday meal prep, with some of Sears’ traditional favorites, such as rum cake, curries and jerk chicken.
The focus is always on family, Sears said, from showing love through gifts -- she playfully calls herself “The Giver” -- to connecting with extended family whom she hasn’t heard from in a while.
She enjoys recreating old photos with family members in the same pose as prior years, creating a special set of memories and snapshots of them over the years.
From festive dress to different spins on holiday meals to family activities, Sears never shies away from expressing herself and sharing love for others, both core principles always encouraged by AMLC and the Army as a whole.
“Every holiday, I love expressing myself in every way possible and making people smile,” she said.