CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- An aviation brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., hosted a holiday party in Iraq Dec. 19, giving deployed service members a chance to celebrate the season despite being away from home.

The party, held on Camp Taji by the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, included live music, food and sporting events. Service members from several Army and Air Force units on the camp attended the party.

"Being away from home, especially during the holiday season, we thought it was important to spend some positive, fun time with those of us we have here," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, the brigade's senior enlisted Soldier, to the troops gathered for the party.

Breaking only for a prayer and a performance of "Silent Night" by one of the unit's officers, attendees competed in events ranging from volleyball to a horse shoe toss.

Some of the troops are serving their first deployments, but for many attendees the party marked yet another holiday spent in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Horst, 29, of Port Richey, Fla., is on his third deployment here. It doesn't get any easier, he said.

"You have to deal with missing the special moments," said Horst.

Horst, who works in the brigade as an Apache helicopter mechanic, said he will especially miss his newborn nephew. But he will spend this Christmas with his Soldiers, he said.

"The relationships we develop are a big thing," said Horst. "We come together to support each other and have fun."

This year is the first Christmas away from home for 23-year-old Spc. Michael Randazzo. The helicopter repairer usually spends the holidays with his loved ones in New Jersey. While he does not envy his relatives who are braving New Jersey traffic, Randazzo said he misses everything else.

"Christmas is everything to us, almost like a reunion every year," he said. "Everything is home made. You really can't beat it. It's nice to celebrate like this, but it'll never be the same."

Randazzo, Horst, and the rest of the unit's troops will get a chance to make up for their time away from home soon, when their unit returns to Fort Riley this spring. The unit is serving a 12-month tour in support of Operation New Dawn.