During my 20 years of military service, I spent only a couple of Christmases overseas away from loved ones. Fortunately, I was assigned to peacetime duties in friendly countries, among people who loved and respected Americans, America and our way of life.

Thus, I cannot begin to fathom the emotions that thousands of our brave men and women serving in hostile territory — among people who would do them and us harm — must be feeling as they tried to celebrate this most joyful and most sacred of all holidays. Thousands of them are spending their second or third Christmas far from home, away from their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

Many newlyweds are spending what would have been their first Christmas as a married couple, thousands of miles from their new wife or husband. Many others, dads and moms, are spending this holiday season away from their young, precious ones — for many it would have been their first Christmas together as a new family. Too many of them are celebrating the birth of the newborn king away from their own newborn.

Our brave men and women in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan celebrated Christmas while fighting those who would do everything to do our troops harm.

I do know that every American will be thinking of them throughout the holiday season, praying for them, thanking them for their sacrifice and wishing them as merry a Christmas as possible. Most of all, Americans will be wishing them a safe and speedy return home so they will be able to celebrate every Christmas henceforth as they celebrate this one in their thoughts, in their dreams and in their prayers.

A merry and safe Christmas to all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines — our heroes — serving us in harm’s way.

Maj. Dorian de Wind (retired)Austin, Texas

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