Monday, November 26, 2007

Troops give thanks in southern Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Across the United States, most families celebrate Thanksgiving with their families with turkey and football.

Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad celebrated as well, with the only family they have while deployed -- each other.

Spc. Desiree Iversen, an intelligence analyst with Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 610th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Cottonwood, Calif., said spending Thanksgiving dinner with her section was a pleasant proxy to spending the day with her family.

"It was nice. Even though we work together, we don't socialize and we work on different shifts," she said. "I got to spend some time talking with them. You kind of adopt a new family when you're out here."

Sgt. Charles Patton, a multi-channel transmission systems operator with Company C, 4-1 Brigade Special Troops Battalion from Monroe, La., said he tries to keep his head up while away from his wife and son on the holidays.

"I'd much rather be spending it at home with my family, but we're here and I'm trying to make the most of it," he said. "I think that's how a lot of guys feel about it, they'd rather be at home, but you're here so you have to make the best of things."

For Patton, who is celebrating his second Thanksgiving holiday in Iraq, being away doesn't get easier.

"Some people get used to it, but I don't," he said. "You just have to make the best of it and keep a positive attitude. That's what I try to do."

Iversen, who hasn't been home for a 'Turkey Day' since being in the Army, felt differently.

"The first year, I was devastated, it was really hard. Every year, I was with my family," she said. "But last year was a little easier and this year, I don't feel anything really. It's just another day."

To Spc. Ahmed Ahmed, a linguist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th IBCT from Buffalo, N.Y., it was not "just another day" as he celebrated his first Thanksgiving as a citizen of the United States.

"It's kind of special because it's my first one as a citizen and I don't have to worry about getting my citizenship," the former Yemeni said. "This is my first time having the full joy as a citizen. It's a special day for me.

"I will remember this for the rest of my life. I had my Thanksgiving for the first time as a citizen, I was in Iraq and I was serving my country."

For all, whether it's the first holiday or one of many, the day is about giving thanks.

Patton said he was most thankful for his loved ones.

"I'm thankful for my family most of all. My family's really supportive of me. They understand I'm in a position where I do what I have to do," Patton said. "That's part of being a Soldier. You have to go out there and take care of business."

Ahmed was thankful to get the chance to serve his new nation, but he looks forward to the future.

"I'm thanking God that I'm still alive; we're actually doing a good job. That's what makes today a special day," he said. "But my next Thanksgiving is going to be even better because I'm going to be my wife in the states, celebrating as an American."

Iversen, the mother of a little girl and wife to a husband who is currently deployed with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, said she is grateful for her child and her husband's well-being.

"I'm thankful for my daughter. I'm thankful my husband's okay. I just hope he comes home safe and able to see our little girl grow up."

Spc. David Schubert, a chaplain's assistant with the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kan., digs into his Thanksgiving Day turkey at the Forward Operating Base Falcon dining facility in southern Baghdad Nov. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div. PAO)

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