Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Distant Christmas memories

December 20, 2000

Monday morning, we will all awake to Christmas, and for most it will be a time of joy and celebration. We will look forward to families gathering, opening presents and eating a huge meal. It will be a special time. We will remember past good times and for some, past pain and the absence of a special member of the family. I hope that you will take the time to think of and, if you are so inclined, to say a special prayer for one special group of people. That group is our men and women serving outside the United States in peacekeeping missions or underway in Naval vessels. It will be a difficult day for most of them.

I spent 14 Christmases serving in the Navy. I had to work on 10 of them. Five of the 10 were spent overseas. Two of the five were during a war and another one I was at sea. There have been enough movies and TV specials to let us all know about the homesickness and loneliness that everyone away from home experiences. We all know about that. The media has showcased the Christmas trees hung with shell casings and other decorations that are substitutes for tinsel and the traditional ornaments often enough for us to be aware of that aspect of a military Christmas away from a home base. We all know about the special effort that is taken to allow each sailor, soldier or marine to celebrate the holiday. But there might be a few things that most don't know.

For many, especially those underway or detailed to a peacekeeping mission, Christmas is punctuated by guard-duty, watch standing and, perhaps, the sound of incoming rounds. Christmas truces have always been a time when someone without our cultural traditions and values understand that we will not be as prepared for conflict on a major holiday. Terrorists know that if you want to make a statement, Christmas is a great time to do that. Consequently, those who are assigned these duties spend a lot of time not thinking about the homeland and try to keep their mind on the opponent. Of course, what they really want to think about is the same things we are thinking about. It makes for a difficult time.

For most, a telephone call home is the most important event of the day. I have known of people in the service who stood in line for hours (literally) to get a chance at a call home, only to find the circuits busy, service out or the international lines so bogged down they finally get a chance to call either in the middle of the night or the day after. For those serving aboard ship, sometimes the only chance is the old fashion MARS call, where a ham radio operator in the States is relaying calls from ships, since the satellite communications are not working. Again, it becomes hours of waiting for a 10-minute call.

Fortunately, this year there is no major conflict involving our military, but ships are still patrolling the Persian Gulf, troops are stationed in Bosnia and, unknown to many, troops still patrol the DMZ in Korea, where any day can erupt into a fire-fight, if our troops are not on their toes. Members of the Intelligence gathering arms of the various branches of the service will be maintaining their normal, daily, "at war" status throughout the world. The Coast Guard will be patrolling the Caribbean in drug interdiction duties and our submarine fleet will be patrolling around the world, just as on any other day. For most of these men and women, Christmas day will be a day of longing and homesickness amidst the sometimes boring, often nerve-wracking duties assigned them.

Unless a member of our family is currently in uniform, we frequently forget that the holidays are often a difficult time for those serving our country. It is especially difficult for those whose duties don't allow them "down time" to celebrate or to get home. Perhaps it would be appropriate to just take a little time to share with the kids in your family about the difficulties others are experiencing on this coming Christmas morning. It might make the day just that much more special for them if you do. Merry Christmas.

Calendar

Dec. 25-26 Office closed for Christmas Holiday.

Jan. 1 Office closed for New Year Holiday.

Jan. 2 Baldwin City Kids Wrestling Registrations at BHS

Jan. 6 Youth Basketball Clinic at Baker 9 a.m.

Jan. 8 Tumbling classes begin

Jan. 13 First games for the basketball season.

Jan. 14 Softball pitching clinic (4 weeks)

Jan. 21 Softball skills clinic

Basketball Teams have been selected: The coaches have made arrangements for practices and we are working on the schedules. We should have all of that finalized by early next week. Looking forward to a great season. Thanks in advance for all your hard work.

Adult Basketball (4 on 4) registrations are being accepted now. Cost is $75 per team. Contact the office for more information.

Monte the Dancing Bear loving the cold and snow. Baldwin City Recreation Commission; 820 High Street; Phone, 594-3670; e-mail, baldrec@knetconnect.net.

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