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Soldiers supporting Atlantic Resolve celebrate holidays in European style

Capt. Joe Laplante, a tank commander with Company C of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, stands next to his M1A2 Abrams tank, with ''Merry'' painted on its side in mud, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY

By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 21, 2017

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The U.S. commitment to deterring possible Russian aggression on the Continent means many of the 5,000 soldiers rotating through Europe will be spending the winter holidays away from home.

The soldiers, serving nine-month rotations in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, are handling the holidays differently. Some will get time off to travel in Europe. For those who will be working through the holidays, Army leaders are doing their best to keep morale high throughout the season.

“Their purpose of assuring NATO allies and deterring aggression will continue to be their main focus,” said Maj. Johnathon Knapton, Atlantic Resolve spokesman. “That being said, units have developed (plans) to ensure that all soldiers have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday season, talk to family back home, and see the great ways Europe celebrates Christmas.”

Soldiers with Company C of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team will be spending the holiday season in eastern Romania, close to the Black Sea. They plan to adorn their barracks with homemade and local Christmas decorations, said Capt. Joe LaPlante, a tank commander with the company. They’ll also spend time at the gym, unwinding physically and mentally.

Some of LaPlante’s soldiers are planning to make a trip to the famous Black Sea port and resort town of Constanta, he said. They’ll get to see how Romanians spend their holidays and have a chance to catch the new “Stars Wars” movie.

In Poland, the rotational soldiers will be benefitting from the long-established rapport with the locals, Knapton said.

“Our units work very closely with their host-nation partners and have developed strong relationships,” Knapton said. During Thanksgiving celebration last month, some Polish servicmembers were invited to join in the festivities.

Now, in appreciation, many of the host units are welcoming U.S. soldiers to their own Christmas celebrations, Knapton said. At the Atlantic Resolve headquarters in Poznan, for example, soldiers will be bused to share a traditional Polish Christmas dinner.

This time away from home can be especially hard on the younger soldiers, who may never have spent the holidays away from their family on a deployment before, Knapton said.

“Our leaders are aware of this and are working hard to ensure that this European Christmas will be as special for our soldiers as possible,” he said.

egnash.martin@stripes.com
Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

Soldiers with Company C of the 2nd Armored Brigade on top their M1A2 Abrams tank with ''Merry'' painted in mud on its side, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

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