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Chaplain in Iraq: Thankfulness is a state of mind
State Rep. Doug Collins

Editor’s note: State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, currently is in Iraq as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. He began his service there in September. He is reporting weekly on the activities at his location.

Well, it is now December and no matter where you happen to be in the world, the holiday season and Christmas are on the minds of most everyone you meet.

As I go around, I am starting to see the Christmas trees go up and lights being strung around desks and work stations. It is amazing what a little bit of tinsel, lights and a fake tree can do to your spirits. Even as I write, the TV is alive with the songs of the season as played by the Air Force band. I have heard the song "I Will Be Home for Christmas" for as long as I can remember. However, it takes on special meaning this year for all of us over here.

The reality of the holidays over here is that no matter how much you work at it, this is not home, and in the end thoughts turn to home and the family that we love.

I have to say though that if Thanksgiving is any indication, we are in for a great meal again on Christmas. The command staff all worked very hard at Thanksgiving to help ease the feelings of the day. We had a football game, tug-of-war and many other activities that kept the members busy. The reality, however, was that after you ate and participated in some activities, the mission was continuing and the war kept going. It was just another Thursday in terms of the mission.

It is with that in mind that I have to say that this Thanksgiving I witnessed what being thankful is all about.

I saw it in a young airman who found out a loved one had passed away on Thanksgiving. He was hurting, of course, but he was only a short time from leaving and chose to stay with his unit and delay his return for a few days so he could finish with honor and not let his fellow service members have to carry the extra weight. He was sad but thankful for the family that he had around him here and needed to be with them when his own family was very far away.

I saw a master sergeant who stayed past his normal shift to greet the airman under him and to be with them during the night. The next day, on very little sleep, he was back doing the job, not looking back on the sleep he lost while caring for his troops.

You see, thankfulness is not a specific day but a state of mind.

The acts that I have witnessed here have reinforced my belief that you choose your attitude. Thankfulness is not an emotion, but an attitude that says "I have been given life and it is worth sharing with those around me." In a war zone that is putting service before self, and that is abundant over here.

As the Christmas season rolls through this month, I am looking forward to sharing with you and with the folks here the joy that comes from an attitude of thankfulness. It is the oil that keeps the emotions strong and the work rolling down the track.

I have had many of you e-mail me wanting to help by sending stuff over here. I would encourage you to do so. We don’t ask for much, mainly snacks, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes. If you would like to send something, just e-mail me and I will give you the mailing address.

I am truly blessed to be a part of a wonderful community in Georgia that has such an open and caring heart. I am also blessed to be serving with some wonderful men and women over here who, day after day, make you proud, whether you know about their actions or not.

Until next time, I will be looking ahead to Christmas and as the song says, "I will be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." Believe me, the dreams of many over here will be with you all month.