MOMs send Christmas tree to soldiers near Baghdad

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Lt.Col. David Davidson, a Lewisburg native, and deputy commanding officer reads a Christmas card with Maj. Gustav Waterhouse, an Eva Beach, Hawaii native, and Civil Affairs officer, while taking a break from decorating a Christmas tree on Camp Taji, northwest of Baghdad, Dec. 10. Both officers are assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad. The tree and decorations were donated by the "Mothers on a Mission" group to provide a touch of home during the Warriors' second Christmas in Iraq.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Stryker Brigade Warriors received a Christmas tree from Lewisburg this month when the live pine tree arrived complete with lights and decorations.

The tree's journey began on Nov. 29 when "Moms on a Mission," a well-known group of Marshall County women, purchased the tree, wrapped it up, and express-mailed the gift to Iraq.

The tree was received on Dec. 10.

Among those enjoying the tree is Lt. Col. David Davidson of Lewisburg, deputy commanding officer of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"I can't begin to express how grateful I am to have a little piece of home during the Christmas season," Davidson said.

"My family and I are spending our second Christmas in a row apart, as are thousands of other soldiers serving here in Iraq and around the world," the Lewisburg man said. "This gesture gives all of us a little piece of home and a moment to pause and remember why we do what we do."

Davidson's wife, Lanita, and sons, Tyler, 15, and Kyle, 12, are looking forward to having him home in March.

"It means a lot to me and our children that so many wonderful people support our soldiers even if many may not be supportive of the war," Lanita Davidson wrote in a message to Marshall County from her residence in Hawaii. "We would like to say 'Thanks' for making our soldier and many others very happy this Christmas season."

Two weeks ago, the aroma of fresh pine wafted its way through the soldiers' camp when the civil affairs team opened the box and unwrapped the tree.

Davidson's father, an attorney with offices on Lewisburg's public square, was amazed that the tree made it to Iraq through the U.S. Mail.

Delivery was less the issue as the Christmas greeting for the soldiers.

"I was really happily surprised to find a green, live tree that had spent so much time getting to us," said Maj. Gustav Waterhouse.

"The smell of pine brought me back to when I was a kid back on the East Coast when we were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree," Waterhouse said. "It reminds me of growing up in the snow, and all the winter fun we had as kids."

The decorations were mostly hand-made and accompanied the tree in its package. The box was full of paper cutout bells, hand-made bead wreaths, and hand-painted glass ornaments.

"It took time for the kids to make these, and I'm proud to put these on the tree for them," said Master Sgt. Agaluma Filoialli, a native of American Samoa. "They may not know me, but their work makes me feel like they did this just for me."

Christmas lights and tinsel also decorate the tree and the soldiers smiled and laughed together as they discussed the ornaments and tree.

"This is a piece of home for those of us who can't be at home... our second Christmas away from loved ones," said Capt. Jason Bowers. "We're here, but it brings back great memories.

"We're making great things happen here," Bowers said. "Someday those will be memories for me to think about ... because someone cared enough to send us a part of home."

Capt. Bethany Vollmer agreed.

"This brings memories of togetherness, and family," Vollmer said. "It reminds me of home.

"We're in Iraq, but we're not so far when you look at the family here, and when someone cares enough to send us a tree, there's family everywhere for us," she said.

Lt. Col. Davidson issued a heartfelt thanks to everyone in Marshall County who helped Moms on a Mission send real Christmas trees to the soldiers overseas.

"Thank you very much from all of us," Davidson said. "And a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year to you all."