Many people here tried very hard to forget Christmas. For a few, it was just another Christmas in the Army, same as always. For many, it was another day at work in Iraq, but for all of us in some way, it was yet another reminder of all we've left behind. For me, the day began at midnight, when I went to Midnight Mass here on base. I'd done it once before when I was away from home on Christmas, and it helped a great deal to focus me on the true meaning of this Holiday. It made me stop and take stock and give thanks for the many blessings I've received in this life. This time was no exception. There is something comforting about being around others who are going Thur the same thing you are. It's a sense of unspoken understanding and it brings with it a certain feeling of peace and belonging, which is exactly what we're all missing by being away from loved ones. By no means is it an equal substitute but it does fill the void, even if just partially. At about noon, my neighbors (whom I fly/work with) woke me up to go to Christmas lunch. As with Thanksgiving, this was quite an all-out feast, with anything and everything you could possibly want and then some. The employees of the dining facility, all of whom are foreign nationals (Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Uganda), did their very best to get us in the spirit and ensure our needs were met or exceeded. There were elaborate decorations everywhere, and they were all dressed up in their finest native dress clothes. Some danced and sang, some were greeters, some were dressed as Santa, Mrs. Claus or Elves, but all went above and beyond, just for us. I still missed Mom's Lasagne, but thinking about all these people did to try to please us sure helped. After lunch, it was time to get ready to go fly. I figured the more I had to do/made myself do, the easier and quicker the day would go. True, to some extent, but... Our offices and halls were all decorated for Christmas, complete with a real Christmas tree and lights all over the place, including on some of the Flight Operations specialists. There were stockings on the wall, some of the office doors were gift wrapped, there were USO Care packages all over the place (THANK YOU!), and dozens if not hundreds of Christmas cards from complete strangers hanging on the walls. On our office door, a certain nameless CW3 with a slightly warped sense of humor hung a nearly blank 8.5 x 11 piece of paper with the words: "Christmas Decoration, Government Issue. 1 Each. Serial Number: 12-25-2007-00000" written on it. It seemed appropriate, and about matched my mood at the time. The preflight period seemed to drag on forever. This was going to be just a milk run out-and-back flight, so nothing unusual or overly exciting needed to be done in preparation. I was ready for the day to be over so I could call home and go to bed. As we walked out to the airplane, I switched into "fly" mode, and focused on the job at hand and for the first time that day, forgot that it was Christmas. The flight out was uneventful, and we got to witness a beautiful sunset from 26,000'. I handled the radios on this leg, and made sure to wish all the controllers a Merry Christmas. It seemed that some of them had also forgotten, and were glad to hear the reminder. We landed, took on fuel, loaded our passengers and taxied back out to head "home". I was flying the airplane for the last leg. We climbed up to 27,000' and settled in for the hour and a half flight. Once the climb portion of the flight is complete, there really isn't much to do in the cockpit, so once again I was alone with my thoughts. Tonight my thoughts weren't of what was going on in the towns and villages below (as they normally were), but of what might be going on back at home. What was everyone doing, were they opening gifts, were they laughing, were they enjoying the day as much as I hoped they were? Did they know that I was thinking about them, missing them and loving them? I hope so. As we droned on, I caught myself staring off into the inky darkness that is Iraq, wondering what this land must have been like over 2000 years ago. Here it was, Christmas day (night), and as the crow flies, I was maybe 200 miles away from Bethlehem at most. Wow. I can't imagine that this region has changed much in those 2000 years, so even back then it probably looked pretty similar to what I was seeing out my cockpit window right now. The night sky was crystal clear and filled with more stars than most people will ever see. There was no moon, but the stars gave off enough light to see the ground below very clearly. As I was sitting there admiring the beautiful tranquility that was before me, "Silent Night" began to play in my headphones. How appropriate. Indeed it was a silent night, and a Holy night. All was calm (at 27,000'...probably not so much on the ground), and the stars were bright. I sat in quiet wonder and remembered the Chaplain's reading of the Christmas story, realizing that I was staring out at the very land in which it all took place so long ago. There aren't many people who will ever get to experience what I did that night, and for that special Christmas gift, I am forever grateful. Merry Christmas from Iraq. May all the joys and blessings of this Holiday season be yours, and may you know the love of friends and family as I do.