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European edition, Sunday, December 2, 2007

WIESBADEN, Germany — Neither the children nor the adults dressed as elves knew who penned a letter found on a table in the community activity center on Wiesbaden Army Airfield.

Perhaps that’s because the center, the gathering point for festivities following Friday’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, was humming with all sorts of holiday merriment.

But there it was on a table reserved for children writing letters to Santa and to their parents deployed to Iraq.

“Dear Dad,” the letter began, “I wish you a Merry Christmas and I hope you are safe. I wish I was there to help you, but, hey, I’m only twelve. Dad, just to let you know over here, we love you and we all support what you’re doing.”

This time of year, U.S. military communities in Europe routinely hold tree-lighting events. Like Wiesbaden, Aviano Air Base, Italy, illuminated its tree Friday. The U.S.

Army community in Chievres, Belgium, plans to light up an evergreen next Friday. In Schweinfurt, Germany, where soldiers recently returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq, a festive gathering is set for Dec. 16.

Wiesbaden is going through what Schweinfurt experienced last holiday season: a Christmas without a full complement of moms and dads due to the war in Iraq.

Eight-year-old Tryston Dannar, whose father, Staff Sgt. Zebulon Dannar, is downrange, sang Christmas carols and sipped hot chocolate Friday.“Merry Christmas, Dad, we love you,” Tryston said amid the glow of a shining Tannenbaum and holiday music performed by Wiesbaden Middle School students.

Amid the crowd of holiday revelers stood Angela Crow, wife of Capt. Stephen Crow, who is deployed. She was cradling the couple’s 14-month daughter, Peyton.

“She doesn’t really know what she is missing,” Crow said. “Hopefully, he will be back next Christmas.”

The Christmas gathering in Wiesbaden included Santa and elves, gingerbread cookies and candy canes, roasted marshmallows and cups of hot Glühwein.

“It’s cold,” said 13-year-old Jamie Curry Jr., a band member who played drums and shook sleigh bells. But he didn’t seem to mind, saying the event “is a tribute” to all the missing moms and dads.


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