Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Christmas on the eastern front...

Posted 12/22/20 (Tue)

Because it’s Christmas time, most of us are happy to receive presents, attend special church services and gain lots of weight from wonderful meals.

But it’s also this time of year that we should all be thinking about the service members who are away from home, some of them sleeping on hoods of HUMVEEs or dodging bullets and mortars inside fox holes in Afghanistan.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Virtually every person in this nation has been touched by someone who either is now or has been in the military service.

We have parties and celebrate, we sing Christmas carols together and we visit relatives more often this time of year.

Think about what a service member away from home is thinking. They’re not physically alone, but they are lonely because they aren’t home for the holidays.

They can’t sing Christmas carols because the noise might give their location away. They can’t worship as a Christian because they are in a Muslim country. They don’t smell the pumpkin pie baking in the oven on Christmas morning.

Instead, it’s the smell of gun powder and aviation fuel, constant reminders that they aren’t safe, not even for a second.

North Dakota has sent a lot of people into these situations over the years and more recently, the National Guard has deployed numerous units to Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Kuwait, Bahrain and other places some of us have never heard of before.

There are also those American service members who link up with our allies overseas and fight a common enemy. That can get interesting when it comes to a time like Christmas, but it’s not the same.

North Dakota National Guard Soldiers have learned that first hand. It seems each country has it’s own traditions, foods, tall tales and gift giving at Christmas and in some cases those traditions are shared even though there is a war going on outside the wire.

British Soldiers have their plum pudding and insist everyone try it. Ukrainian Soldiers have the best vodka and will be quick to tell you that Russian vodka is no good. Australian Soldiers have picnics because its hot Down Under at Christmas.

These things are all fine and well and no matter how much we enjoy them, it isn’t home. It isn’t the farm 10 miles west of Carson.

With that said, remember who your service member is, especially this time of year. They are going to continue to do their job day in and day out, typically with no days off, at least away from the possible conflict.

Call, write, send a Christmas card, Face Time: Do something to make that connection and let them know that you are proud of them for doing what they are doing.

Consider the other extreme. If a service member ends up in a place like the Middle Eastern desert “alone,” it’s often times hard for them to make focus and that loneliness leads to depression which in turn, isn’t productive for the mission.

Food is another dynamic. Have you ever eaten Christmas dinner in a military dining facility? The meals have gotten better over the years, but no matter how hard they try, it’s not the same food that came out of the oven on the farm 10 miles west of Carson.

As a Soldier, there’s no TV, no newspapers, no radio, or at least, no English radio, so you just have to sit there and wonder what is going on at home right now.

They can only imagine as they lie on an Army cot in a large tent that smells like canvas.

No sympathy, please! They signed up for this gig and they get a decent paycheck. They’re there because they volunteered. They weren’t drafted and forced to go.

They are there on their own accord and will fight to the death if they have to on any given day.

The only exception is Christmas. They don’t lay down their weapons for one day, I’m not saying that. It’s just that everybody, even the leadership, is reluctant to go on missions on Christmas Day. It’s a special day even when you are a situation that could change at any moment.

The Middle East tours have been very complex and have lasted for far too many years. When you are there, you can’t detach yourself from your surroundings, unless you have somebody blindfold you.

But you can think about the family back in North Dakota and what they are doing about now.

That’s why it’s important to stay in regular communication. It’s important because it tells them you care. It’s tells them you are thinking about them and that is a tremendous amount of motivation.

Merry Christmas!