CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Though only a handful of Soldiers in the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, will be home for the holidays this year, the spirit of Christmas has still found its way to Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.

The halls have been decked with festive paper decorations, desks adorned with sparkling Christmas trees, and windows ornamented with snowmen and snowflakes and, though many in the Connecticut-based unit may be nostalgic for a white Christmas, many Soldiers are happy to be blessed with warm, temperate weather this time of year, especially the battalion's assistant operations officer 1st Lt. Cecilio Mendez, a native of Puerto Rico, who still wishes it were warmer as he bundles up in cold-weather gear every day.

Tinsel and snowflakes aside, warming the hearts of the Soldiers here are the care packages sent from all over the U.S. The packages are sometimes sent by loved ones, but are often sent by strangers, including organizations such as Operation Gratitude, the American Legion, and other schools and groups.

"It's amazing to me still after seven years (in Iraq) the amount of prayer and love that is extended to us," Capt. Amy Noble, the battalion's chaplain, said of the gifts.

"I'm sure everyone will gain five pounds of love this holiday season," Noble said, jesting at the table of cookies in the tactical operations center.

And though the Soldiers won't be gathering around a twinkling tree on Christmas morning with Family, the mail is abundant with holiday cards from home, noted Pfc. Phillip Makowski, an information system specialist and mail clerk.

"Never lose the child-like wonder of Christmas," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Teri Watkins, a battalion Logistics Civil Augmentation Program officer and civilian school teacher from Philadelphia.