Christmas In Iraq, Again

As difficult as it might be for servicemen and women to be in Iraq and far from their families during the holidays, it's even harder for those who are there for the second Christmas in a row.

The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler spoke with four GIs in that exact situation in Baghdad but, as a special treat, they got to speak to their spouses, who are at Fort Bragg, N.C.

It's the second time around there for Specialist Josh Arnold, Specialist Adam Franks, Sgt. Adam Kozell and Sgt. Darryl Patterson. All are members of the 82nd Airborne Division, which has 2,500 soldiers in Iraq.

Sgt. Kozell and his wife, Shawna, are expecting their second child in April. Their 14-month-old boy was bouncing on Shawna's lap as Kozell told Syler, "It's pretty tough. This is our second child that I'll unfortunately, I think, I'll have missed the birth for. …But I've got a good wife, so we'll work through it."

Shawna agreed: "I have family to depend on to come down and take care of me. So it's sad, but we'll make it through it. We've done it once, so we're prepared. We know what will happen, and we'll know what to do."

Shawna said Adam looks really good.

Prompted by Syler to "say something to him directly," Shawna, in a touching moment, choked up and said, "I wasn't going to cry, so -- we miss you so much and we just want you to stay safe. That's our main concern, and come home as soon as you can. We love you."

Specialist Franks is well aware it's the second straight Christmas he'll be at war: "We did it once before. It's pretty much the same thing over again. We have a job to do here, and I'm going to do my best to do it."

His wife, Anjie, is due with their first baby in March. "I'm doing OK," she said. "I have a lot of good friends down here. …I get to hear from my husband a lot through email and the Internet and phone calls, so it makes it a little easier. It's going to be hard if he doesn't make it back, but we're prepared. We know he's got a job to do, and we'll make it."

Sgt. Patterson has only been married six months to Kelly. "We've been together through all of the last year-long deployment, so I know we can make it through this together, even though we've only been married a short time. We're a really strong couple, and I know it will work out for the best."

When reminded by Syler that 100 of the U.S. service members killed in Iraq were on their second tours there, Kelly said, "It's something you try not to think about. You just stay busy and try not to think about it as much as you can."

Specialist Josh Arnold and wife Erin have been married two years, don't have any kids, and have spent the majority of that time apart. "We're doing a pretty long stretch here," he said to Syler. "We deal with it one day at a time, and what doesn't kill us just makes us stronger, and we just try to keep that in mind and just drive on."

Erin said spending the second Christmas apart from Josh is "alright. You just try to stay busy, definitely. Try and find things that are going to occupy your time and that are meaningful to you. And write letters and email as much as possible."
  • Brian Dakss

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