By David VergunDecember 11, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 11, 2012) -- The holidays are just around the corner, but Soldiers everywhere are already busy with a variety of holiday activities.
Many Soldiers will spend the holidays overseas, far away from loved ones. In today's social media world, however, they will still manage to find ways to stay connected. But getting a fruit cake or greeting card from home still means doing it the old fashioned way, making a trip to the post office.
MOVING HOLIDAY CHEER
To handle the flood of letters and packages, installation mail room clerks are working harder, longer hours, according to Staff Sgt. William Sims, who is in charge of operations at the Camp Casey post office in South Korea.
He said about 1,000 pieces of mail arrives on a normal day, but now it is double and the work day now begins at 5 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.
Soldiers from the BOSS program are volunteering to help sort all that mail. BOSS stands for Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers.
Other BOSS volunteers are busy doing work in orphanages and schools in the nearby town of Dongducheon.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the west, Soldiers in Afghanistan are beginning to receive their holiday mail as well. A package from a post office in the U.S. to a remote location in Afghanistan takes a while to get there, however.
It gets routed through a system of civilian and military agencies that move the mail by truck, plane, and boat. Eventually, usually two to three weeks later, the mail arrives at the outpost, said Spc. Terrence Burgess, a mail clerk at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
Despite the delay, "the mail here is important," he added. "Someone may be waiting for a pillow from home to sleep on, a picture of their family, or a favorite snack."
Santa's sleigh landed early in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany -- Nov. 30 to be exact.
Besides hearing wishes from the kids, the Army tasked Santa with lighting the tree, a large, Serbian Pine. About 1,600 Soldiers and family members were at the event, which was held on the basketball court of the fitness center, as the weather outside was frightful.
At another installation in Germany, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, about 60 children of U.S. Soldiers were at the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Heart and Home Craft Shop, creating personalized craft gifts for their parents.
Their work included hand-painted ceramics, colorful wreaths, gleaming sun catchers and even baseball caps.
Aura Quinong, 6, decorated a white tie with colorful gems for her dad and 6-year-old Audrey Wilson layered paint over a ceramic house - a colorful tchotchke for her mother.
Jordan Wilson, 8, thought her gift -- a mirror adorned with shells and feathers creating a beach theme -- was extra special.
"It's by me, no one else," said Wilson. "It makes it better than any other gift."
TIME OF GIVING
The holiday season is a time of giving and Soldiers from the 65th Engineer Battalion in Mililani, Hawaii, are doing their part, with some help from the students of their partnership school, Mililani Middle School.
They worked together collecting toys from community supporters for Toys for Tots and the Make a Wish Foundation.
"It's a really special event," said 1st Lt. Courtney Heaps, assistant plans officer for the battalion.
"We are trying to get these kids to see that a lot of other children are not as blessed and not as fortunate, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. They are seeing that they can really make a difference and make someone's Christmas a little bit better."
For many Soldiers, it wouldn't be a real Christmas without a tree. The Fort Sill, Okla., Recycle Center provided about 300 Christmas trees to families of Soldiers who might otherwise not be able to afford them. Tree donations are taking place on other installations as well.
SEASON OF REMEMBRANCE
During this holiday season, it would be especially appropriate to remember those still serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere in harm's way -- and, to honor veterans from battlefields that are now a distant memory, said the 101st Airborne Division commander.
"Christmas 1944 was a difficult time for our Screaming Eagles holding Bastogne, Belgium," wrote Maj. Gen. James C. McConville in a letter to his Soldiers, Dec. 9, 2012. He's the commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.
"It came in the midst of the famous Battle of the Bulge, the last-ditch major German offensive in which the German high command threw thousands of tanks and troops into what was perceived to be the weak point in the Allied lines, deep in the Ardennes region of northeastern France," McConville continued. It turned out to be one of our finest moments. Today, our division celebrates the holiday season while we again have troops serving overseas in defense of our nation."
"The holiday season is a busy time for all of us. I ask that we take a few moments from the hustle and bustle to focus on the individuals who've sacrificed and made the enjoyment of the holidays possible," he wrote. "On the other side of the world, we have thousands of Screaming Eagles in Afghanistan, on patrol alongside our Afghan partners. Their holiday season will be spent doing the dangerous work of defending freedom, helping to create a better future for the people of Afghanistan and a safer world for us all. Those Soldiers far away embody the holiday spirit, even as they spend their holidays on duty rather than in celebration."
"In our hometowns, there are Gold Star families who are preparing to spend the holidays without their loved ones. The holidays are an exceptionally difficult time of the year for them. I would like to personally thank them for their family's sacrifice and let them know that their loved ones will never be forgotten," he continued.
"In our military hospitals and warrior transition units, wounded warriors recover from their wounds this holiday season. These wounded warriors have strong spirits, and I admire their drive and determination and am inspired by them," McConville observed. "Each of these individuals, whether Soldier, civilian or family member, have given so much on our behalf. In this season of giving, I encourage you to let them know they are remembered and that they have our unconditional support, now and throughout the year."