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While much of America will see a white Christmas this year, servicemembers stationed in southwest Asia know they don’t have have snowball’s chance in the desert of seeing anything of the sort.

“There’s no snow here,” said Staff Sgt. Olga Medina, who is on a 90-day rotation at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. It won’t be like any of the Christmases she remembers in New York.

Of course, there’s no snow now at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where she’s normally stationed, either. But Enrique Medina, Olga’s husband, is there. And he’ll have to wait a while to get his Christmas present, which she recently bought.

“Some time in February, he’ll get it,” she said.

Jeanena McHargue might get something extra, too. But her husband, Staff Sgt. James McHargue, planned ahead. He left some presents with his landlord to give to his wife in Germany. McHargue is assigned to the 81st Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base.

“I’m going to celebrate [Christmas] when I get back,” he said during a phone interview from the base. “I have to work. So I’m trying not to think about it, actually.”

Base officials aren’t making that easy, though. They’ve tried to fill the base with as much holiday spirit as they can.

There’s been a Christmas tree lighting. Col. Tim Scott, the commander of the 379th Air Expedition Wing, did the honors. Comedian Drew Carey and baseball pitcher Roger Clemens visited Saturday. Christmas Eve activities included caroling and a slide show sponsored by the chapel — which held services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The highlight of Christmas Day, besides the many phone calls servicemembers planned to make to loved ones back home, is a Christmas dinner “which is quite impressive,” according to Staff Sgt. Dawn Harris, a public affairs officer. Her husband, Arthur, and kids, Andrew and Grace, are back at Aviano as well.

There’s turkey and ham, prime rib, crab legs, various casseroles and lots of dessert (in addition to lots of desert).

The big spread might make it seem a bit more like Christmas to Capt. Jennifer Judd, who is from Pennsylvania. She’ll return to Aviano Air Base in a few months.

“I’m used to it being a little colder and having a lot of food,” she said.

Not that she’s experienced the Christmas of her childhood much lately.

“Next Christmas, I hope I’m closer to home,” she said. “I haven’t been home for Christmas in about five years. But I’ve never been this far away.”

Most of those stationed in Qatar can take some consolation that it’s a lot warmer there than places such as Ramstein, Aviano or Pennsylvania.

Temperatures are in the 60s at this time of year. And they say that there is a different feeling in the air, too.

“It’s pretty strange,” Medina said. “But everyone here is making an effort to get together and keep their spirits up.”

“People are friendly and telling stories about their families,” Judd said.

“Last Christmas at Aviano was boring for me, because I was new and didn’t know anyone. Here, we are almost like a family. We’ve been working closely together for weeks.”

It’s a good thing for Judd that it seems like there’s family around. Although the temperatures are warm during the day, it’s been getting cold at night. And the only real warm weather gear she brought was a robe.

“I’ve told people that when I wear it inside it’s a robe,” she said of the nightly gatherings near the center of the base. “When I wear it outside, it’s a dress.”

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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