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Deployed Soldier Brings Christmas to Baghdad

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24, 2003 – Army Spc. Rebecca Burt loves Christmas. At home in Antioch, Calif., her family decorates everything in sight, bakes all sorts of goodies and holds huge family dinners.

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Army Spc. Rebecca Burt is helping bring the Christmas spirit to Baghdad. Photo by Sgt. Amy Abbott, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

So now that she and her fellow soldiers from Headquarters Company, 5th Corps are deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, Burt said she knows the thought of Christmas away from home is going to be "a little hard."

"But it's okay," she said. "I have lots of family here. I'm not going to let being away from blood relatives get me down when so many other special people are around."

Burt said she recognizes that many of her fellow soldiers are struggling with the thought of going through their first Christmas away from home. "We have young guys away from mom and dad for the first year and older married guys who are having a really hard time knowing that their children won't be waking them up early Christmas morning," she said.

So two months ago Burt said she dedicated herself "to making Christmas really come alive around here." She wrote to friends and family members back home as well as Christmas suppliers to request donations of decorations and goodies.

"A bunch responded, and I got about five artificial trees and a few boxes of garlands and stuff," she said.

Burt has been busy playing Santa's helper distributing the trees "through a few of the different units who work to keep me safe around here," she said. Recipients included "the Florida National Guard infantry boys who protect the Baghdad Convention Center where I work, guys from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment who protect the Al Rasheed (Hotel) and all the different units who work in the office I do."

But Burt didn't stop there. She's devoted herself to taping up "Merry Christmas" signs and garlands in sleeping bays and decorating trees in communal areas. One night, she said she spent about two hours "cutting out paper snowflakes and covering cardboard stars with tinfoil for trees that were looking a little thin."

The efforts, she said, are helping to bring Christmas to Baghdad. "Seeing little trees everywhere definitely helps to instill a little Christmas spirit," she said, adding that it's "something that can be hard to come by is you're used to snow and suddenly looking at sand and palm trees!"

Still, Burt said her job isn't finished. She's dedicated herself to helping other soldiers cope with facing the holidays away from home. "Just being there to listen means a lot to them," she said. "They miss their wives, children or girlfriends, or have problems or worries at home and really appreciate someone to talk things over with."

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Burt said she plans to visit all the guard points and communal areas to hand out candy canes and treats "with a big smile." She's hoping to track down a Santa hat to wear when she makes her stops.

"I hate the idea of any of my soldiers being upset or lonely, so I'll be there for them on Christmas, and hopefully I'll be able to bring a few miles along the way," she said.

"It makes me feel good, too. If I can make a difference, then I did something important while I was here."

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