Greetings from overseas

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 25, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Singing yuletide carols and gathering around the table with family just isn’t the same when a loved one is missing.

As we celebrate this Christmas day – and everyday – let us not forget the soldiers protecting our freedom to do so. For all of the soldiers serving this great country, we salute you and your families for all of the sacrifices you make – one of which is being away from home on this Christmas day.

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Thanks to local families and a wonderful tool called the Internet, we were able to have some soldiers – Selma natives – stationed out of the country, share their stories of Christmas away from home and they were more than happy to send greetings home:

MSG Buriel Beal, U.S. Army, Iraq

I am MSG Beal serving with the U.S. Army and I am stationed in Iraq.

My hometown is Selma, Ala. I am married to Deborah. I have two boys, Buriel III and Andre.

They are located at Fort Lewis,Wash.

They are handling the deployment well. I am proud of my wife for taking such good care of the family while I am deployed.

Time seems to go fast here because we are so busy, however during the holidays, time seems to go just a littler slower.

This is when I miss my family the most but I can call home so thank God for that. In my unit, we are exchanging gifts on Christmas Day. We will be eating a nice meal in the dinning facility. The Christmas meal in the dining facility is the highlight of the day. This is when you see the most smiles on the soldiers’ faces.

You asked if (we have) any more soldiers (here) from my hometown. Guess what? We do. They are located in a different area but I do see them sometimes. Well, thanks for you time and thanks for supporting the troops.

Jessica Etheridge, wife of PFC Justin Etheridge, U.S. Army, Korea

Christmas here really isn’t that bad. We live on a small base where you really know everybody. It is hard being away from family and friends but we have our own little family here in Korea. On base, I helped put on our Winter Wonderland Garden lighting ceremony. Every unit on base was asked to decorate a bush in the garden and paint a sign with a holiday greeting. This was great because the soldiers were able to come together as a unit and help spread the holiday cheer.

As for the ceremony, we had some Korean girls from the local elementary school to come and do a singing and dancing performance for us. It was really neat because they sang Christmas carols in English and Korean. Santa Claus even took some time out of his busy schedule to swing by on the fire truck. That was our big base holiday event to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. We still light the lights every night and they are near the barracks so all the soldiers can stay in the Christmas spirit.

Korea is an interesting place to be for Christmas because the Koreans don’t really get into Christmas. There are no lights around the city and no decorations in any of the stores. That’s really a bummer when you go out but the base decorations make up for it.

The Koreans that work on base always stare at the decorations because they are not use to seeing such a thing.

All in all, Christmas is just Christmas here. The base does a great job of decorating and getting you in the spirit and they even offer a dinner at Christmas so that the soldiers can feel at home. We miss everyone so much and Christmas just isn’t the same without our family, but we are making it enjoyable with our little family out here in Wonju. We live in a small town so there is nothing huge going on but we enjoy where we are and the fact that we did at least have a celebration.

Senior Airman Derek Hudson, U.S. Air Force, Aviano AB, Italy

What it’s like being away from home during the holidays …. It’s kinda hard at first because you are use to being with your family, but after a while you get use to it like everything else.

I am use to it now. But I still miss some things on Christmas Eve and Christmas, such as: being with family, seeing my nephew go crazy opening presents, going to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, enjoying a home cooked Christmas dinner with all the fixings, and just enjoying being with the people you love and all the Christmas joy that goes around.

This is my second Christmas and New Year’s away from home, but it’s my first Christmas with my loving wife! It’s good because we get to start our own traditions. I wish all my family, friends and troops a safe and happy holidays!