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Task Force 12 Soldiers Continue Traditions From Home

By Sgt. Brandon Little, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Dec. 20, 2007 – As the holiday season approaches, many soldiers would like more than anything to receive just one simple present.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army 1st Lt. Adam Samiof, executive officer for Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Task Force 12, wears a Santa hat as he helps other Task Force 12 soldiers decorate a tree for the holidays. The tree was donated to them by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Little, USA

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

It isn’t a video game system, an MP3 player, or a new digital anything -- it’s the chance to be with family and loved ones.

Instead of having a case of humbugs because they are away from home, some soldiers have decided to get together to spread some holiday cheer and help lift the spirits of those around them.

“Back home, my family would get together and take time to decorate our whole house,” said Army Pfc. Heather McKinnon, a supply specialist in Task Force 12 and a native of Biddeford, Maine. “That’s why (we) decided it would be a good idea to decorate a tree and put it somewhere everybody could see it.”

“I’m new to the unit, so helping set up decorations was a good opportunity for me to get to know some of the soldiers I’m going to be working with a little better,” said 1st Lt. Adam Samiof, executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “I guess I’m just trying to get into the holiday spirit.”

Decorating this tree, donated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is just one of the ways Task Force 12 soldiers plan to cope with being deployed during this holiday season.

“My husband and I decorated our room,” said Sgt. Lisa Riat, a communications security custodian from Lumberton, N.C. “Having my husband (Chief Warrant Officer Jasbir Riat) here makes it a little easier to be away from home during the holidays.”

The Riats are one of several married couples in Task Force 12. “This is our first deployment together,” said Riat, a three-combat-tour veteran. “We plan to have dinner together, but we have decided not to exchange gifts this year.”

Many soldiers have found ways to enjoy this holiday season without their loved ones.

“I just plan to be around some friends that I have, just like I did for Thanksgiving Day this year and last year,” said Samiof, a native of Albany, N.Y. “Some of the friends you make in the military can become a different kind of family for you when you’re not with your real family.”

“Being away from close friends and family members back home during the holiday season can really make you miss and appreciate the things you might have taken for granted,” Riat said. “I really miss being getting ready to cook a big dinner for me and my family.”

Whether it’s hanging decorations on a tree or having a home-cooked meal with family members, soldiers in Iraq have found ways to adjust to the things they will miss this holiday season.

“This is my first holiday season away from home, and I think what I will miss most is being around friends and family and having a home-cooked meal,” Samiof said. “I know that being away from home this year will make everybody appreciate being with their families much more next year.”

(Army Sgt. Brandon Little is assigned to Task Force 12 Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
Multinational Corps Iraq

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