Christmas in Tikrit

While deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, my unit attempted as much as was possible, to keep morale high and to keep us engaged and productive. This task was always the hardest around the holidays. Our Unit decided to do a “secret Santa” and holiday party to boost morale and help reinforce esprit de corps. After a very good holiday dinner in the DEFAC (Dining Facility), which I will say was very traditional with all the fixing and trimmings anyone could want, we were summoned to the Company Headquarters building, a plywood structure with a tin roof that looked like it had been made by Boy Scouts at a Jamboree. The inside wasn’t much better, as it was always filled with a thin layer of dust which, for us, was a fact of life. The dust was a fine powder and it got everywhere. Most of us simply made do and tried to keep our electronics as clean as we could.

HQ lacked the creature comforts, but it was wired for lights and power, and I am certain it was not up to any sort of safety standard, but it was what we had. The weather was relatively cool for us by Iraq standards at any rate, which put us in the holiday mood.

The party began relatively late, in order to allow for maximum participation. We arrived to find that hot wings and various snack foods had been provided by our Dining Facility. The room was decorated with perhaps the most forlorn looking Christmas tree in all of Iraq. It was decorated with cheap plastic ornaments that had either been shipped from home, left by the previous unit, or purchased from the local Sauk market at inflated prices.

We listened to music, joked and watched holiday movies until it was time for the main event. Everyone had secretly drawn someone to provide a gift for. Most of us already had a fairly good idea of what we would be getting, as the sources of potential gifts was rather limited. The purpose was mainly to have a good time, and as it is so often said, it’s the thought that counts.

Somehow Supply managed to procure a Santa costume and our Executive Officer dutifully dressed up as Santa and presented us with our gifts. Some of us were genuinely surprised with what we got– myself included. I ended up getting a very nice T-shirt from the local Sauk market on the FOB.

Some of the other notable gifts were DVDs, CDs, and clothing. One guy even got a whole set of cologne from the market as well. Following the gifts, we watched holiday classics on a little projector hooked up to the Commander’s laptop.

All in all, it was a very fun party that showed us no matter where you come from, or where you are, you can all get along and have fun.

SPC Erik Woessner

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