December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from Ishtar Gate

To all of my friends, family, colleagues and itinerant blog readers, this post is to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Babylon.

This is a photo of a replica of the Ishtar Gate, at the Babylonian ruins site. The original gate, which is very similar, is in a museum in Berlin. The photo was actually sent to me as a Christmas card by one of our staff.

Today is Christmas Eve, and I have sent the local employees home. None of them are Christian, but they enjoy a free afternoon just the same. It rained fairly hard last night, although briefly, as if the heavens were giving Iraq a good cleansing. it was the first real rain in six months, and the farmers will be happy.

This is my first Christmas away from family in my 30 years of marriage. Even when I was on the Bosnian-Serbian border during Christmas of 1994, I was able to get to Rome for a few days to rejoin the family. There are many soldiers and civilians in Babil for whom this is not the first time to be separated from family at Christmas, so I have been fortunate overall.

Yesterday I received a Christmas card from an Iraqi Police General, which I am sharing below. I found it touching that he would send me such a message in the midst of all his hard work. I think that it reflects the sentiments of many Iraqis who realize all the sacrifices America has made on their behalf and seem more determined than ever to make good on the promise of a new Iraq.

Begin Text:
A special thanks with our greatest appreciation for your hard work and efforts towards the security of Iraq. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year during this special time away from family and friends. We hope that you remember this wonderful time of year not with regret but with a feeling of accomplishment for a worthy cause.

From all the men of all Hillah SWAT we hope that this Christmas away from home will be a joyous one.
End Text.

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