A Christmas message sent by
United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mark Smith
to the U.S. Marines in his command over in Fallujah

From: Smith Lt. Col. Mark A
Sent: Thursday, 23 December, 2004 13:22
Subject: Weekly Update 23 December 04

Two days until Christmas. I can only imagine the trepidation that many of you must be feeling, as you prepare to celebrate such an enormous holiday without your beloved Marine. Well, rest assured, there is much yule tide spirit in the Mayhem Area of Operations, better known as the Mayhem AO. Cards, lights and stockings adorn all the FOBs, and especially pictures of children are everywhere. Christmas music can be heard coming from walkmans and computer laptops, and there is enough candy and candy canes to feed the Battalion and keep them high on sugar for the next 10 years. All of this courtesy of the amazing families and support network of 2/24. And, I must send a special thanks to all of you that have sent me personal notes and cards of encouragement and support, you will NEVER know how uplifting those moments have been for me to receive and read. I will get a note back to each and every one of you, I just beg your patience as our operational tempo only knows one speed: FASTER than yesterday.

I always try to shoot straight with the families of 2/24, and this update will be no different. I know some of the Marines are openly thinking about the Christmas season, while others keep "the stiff upper lip" and pretend it is just going to be another day. Well, although my 60 watt bulb of a brain only draws 20 watts, I am bright enough to know, and sharp enough to see, this time of year is dealing a hefty blow to my beloved Marines. The weight of not being at home with their families, during this most family oriented of seasons has them a bit down. I know that many are adrift with thoughts of how Christmas WOULD be spent if they were not in Iraq. I know they long for the sights, hunger for the tastes and yearn for the touch of loved ones.

They imagine the warmth that tingles from within when seeing the light of a child's face when opening a toy. They visualize about the look in a spouse's eyes, so intent that it says "I love you" without a single spoken word! All these things race through their minds at dizzying speed, for they race through mine as well.

But, in spite of it all, we will be a joyful bunch this Christmas. We will be a joyful bunch, because while we cannot be amongst you, we can be between you. Between you and the enemy that seeks your destruction and the end of all your Christmas celebrations, forever! No, we will be a joyful bunch, because the enemy is at bay. He is at bay because standing between you and him is the righteous fury of "a few good men." No, we will be a joyful bunch, because we are the tool of the fury. We will spend Christmas on the wall separating good from evil. We will spend Christmas in the relentless pursuit of those who would replace your child's wonder with fear, your happiness with desperation, your freedom with tyranny. No! Such cannot happen! And therefore, we spend this Christmas on duty, at the ready, and continuing the hunt.

Who will we spend Christmas with? Let me answer that one. Last night I was making my rounds and had just entered the S-1 office. Now, office is a gross overstatement, as our spaces are essentially wood cubicles inside an old chicken factory with the amenities of a pauper and enough dust to choke a Hoover vacuum. But, office at least gives the impression of a space where the S-1 Marines do their combat admin magic, and it is at least that. There were (3) Marines seated in a close circle in the middle of the space, and I immediately recognized them as from Fox Company; they had layers of dust On them, layers of clothes on them for protection from the cold, and the look of fatigue that is easily recognizable by Warriors, the one that displays a need to sleep, but a greater need to finish the task at hand. I always try to talk to my Warriors and I approached and after receiving the usual, "good evening Sir," that I got from each of them because of our Marine's unbreakable professionalism, I asked them how things were at Fox. Please understand, I cannot convey tone and tenor, but these Marines instantly knew I meant "how is Fox?" As in, how are you all holding up in light of the tragic loss of LCpl Warner and PFC Vroman. Now, these Marines can easily dismiss the Bn Cmdr, who they all always want on the other side of the Mayhem AO from wherever they currently are, with a simple "doing fine, Sir" or "good to go Sir" or even better yet, "oohrah Sir." But I got none of these. I got a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, and then one of them, a young handsome Devil Dog with broad shoulders and the kind of look that should be used as a recruiting poster, looked at me, took a deep breath that instantly let you know what he was about to say was important and warranted your undivided attention, and said: "you know Sir, it's amazing. Even the "bad ass" Marines cannot help but get a little choked up about what we are doing in Yusufiyah. I mean, when we seized that town and it was a running gun battle day in and day out, that place was abandoned. Nobody came out of their houses. But now, when we are out on patrol, and all the schools are back open and people are living their lives, it feels good. But what really gets you Sir... those little kids...those little kids...they come up to you, and in their broken English say "look, we go to school" with a wide smile and a thumbs up. It gets to you Sir, it feels good. We are doing really good out there, aren't we Sir?"

Well, after you could count every hair on the back of my neck because it was at the position of attention, and after the chills stopped going down my spine, and the tears were pushed back into my soul from whence they sprang, I simply said, "you have no idea Devil Dog. You have no idea. You have done amazing. And one day, I will tell the world just HOW amazing."

So, weep not for us, because I for one, and I think I speak for us all, know the only thing that would keep me from my beautiful wife and angelic daughters on Christmas would be:

1. to be in the service of my country and
2. in the presence of heroes.
Check roger on both counts.

Therefore, from Iraq and on behalf of all the heroes of 2/24: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Mark Mark A. Smith, LtCol USMCR
TF 2/24 Commanding Officer, 24 MEU
Mahmudiyah, Iraq