Wednesday, December 26, 2007
They weren't home for Christmas
Interesting thing about spending Christmas on a U.S. military base in Iraq ... it is a lot easier to look for Santa when you are in a desert away from city lights ... this year, staring toward full moon-lit skies. Slightly disappointing, however, to discover the flashing objects overhead aren't reindeer and sleigh, but Black Hawk helicopters ferrying troops across the country.
This isn't my first Christmas in a war zone. However, it was one of the more pleasant holidays, as these things go, in Iraq. Spending a lot of time reporting live from the U.S. Army Camp Striker Dining Facilities - at least we were well fed.
I try to remember that these soldiers are somebody's mothers, fathers, sons, daughters - or the wacky cousin everybody loves to talk about. And this Christmas, most families of U.S. troops in Iraq can only talk about these men and women - instead of physically hugging them or exchanging gifts around the tree.
CNN cameraman extraordinaire, Ken Tillis, captured one powerful image that really symbolizes the get-on-with-it spirit of these American service members trying to cope so far from home.
This is Sergeant First Class Kerensa Hardy. The Army public affairs officer was responsible for dealing with a CNN crew for live Christmas coverage, seemingly non-stop for 48 hours. Earlier in the week, her boss stepped on buried bomb - survived - but lost a leg and was recovering in hospital. So it was up to her to see that we were happy - and that no soldier acted the fool (or worse) on live tv. We later learned this is Hardy's first holiday deployment in a war zone ... and that she's missing her four-year old daughter back at home.
Image courtesy Ken Tillis
Between live reports, Ken photographed Hardy reading a newspaper while waiting for a Christmas call from her baby girl. You'll see her phone is placed on a door fixture just outside the Dining Facility. The dining hall structure (it seats 1,800 troops) doesn't allow for cell phone coverage inside.
To remain so composed, professional - and patient - given all that must be going on in her life this time of year, sort of took us aback.
We weren't privy to the mother-daughter conversation (we were workin'...and privacy is at a premium on a military base) but I'm betting there's a four year-old somewhere in America, who is very proud of her military mom.
Watch my reports on Christmas Day in Iraq and Santa stopping in Iraq
From CNN Correspondent Alphonso Van Marsh at U.S. Army Camp Striker, Baghdad
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