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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Deployed Troops Grateful for Support of Family, Nation

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2010 - Holidays or not, it will be business as usual this weekend for Army Sgt. Kellie Mock.

On Christmas morning, as on every morning, she'll don her uniform, pull on her combat boots and report for duty as the supply noncommissioned officer in charge for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, at Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan.

Her Christmas plans, if duty allows, include a viewing of the holiday movie classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" and some oversized snowman and Santa cookies snagged from her roommate's care package.

It's a far cry from her traditional holiday season at home on Fort Campbell, Ky., -- packed with tree decorating and family get-togethers -- but Mock said she's glad to make the sacrifice for her nation.

"My mother calls me her hero," the mother of three said. "And it makes me proud to be here."

Mock is one of the thousands of U.S. servicemembers who won't be home for the holidays this year. About 95,000 troops are deployed in Afghanistan, 48,000 in Iraq and thousands more to other locations around the world. But while far from home, thanks to the support of friends, family, and the nation, they are far from forgotten.

Mock works closely with the mail clerk and has seen first-hand the bounty of care packages that flood in for the holidays.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Armstrong holds up a holiday message to his wife that includes their wedding anniversary date from Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan, December 2010. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"People take the time not only to pack these boxes and send them over here, but to send cards or letters," she said. "Children who draw pictures and send us things they made for us, it really warms the heart and mind." Mock draws comfort from this display of support, as well as from the unwavering support of her family. Her husband, Donnie, has kept in close contact and plans to call her on Christmas her time and then again when the day begins in Kentucky.
She's also looking forward to watching her three children -- 10-year-old Donnie III, 4-year-old Dayon and 2-year-old Seagurin -- enjoy their gifts. Unfortunately, she'll miss out on her favorite moment of the holiday season: "Seeing my kids light up on Christmas morning when they see all of the gifts under the tree."
Being so far from home during the holidays can take its toll on the troops but, thanks to the nation's support, morale is "very high" among his soldiers, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Moseley, platoon sergeant to the Signals Intelligence Platoon, for the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade at FOB Sharana.

Moseley said his troops have received more care packages this year than he's ever seen. "People back home are really standing behind this troop and this causes us great pride to serve our nation," he said.
Moseley has enjoyed several care packages of his own throughout the month from his wife, Pat. The couple celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, so their holiday season kicks into high gear right after Thanksgiving.

"Whether we stay home with the boys or go and visit family somewhere, we spend it together and try to make memories," he said.

Moseley's "boys" are grown men now, and both are serving in the Army. His older son, Army Spc. Chris Moseley, also is deployed in Afghanistan, although to a base about three hours away from FOB Sharana. His younger son, Jon, will deploy in the spring, while Moseley remains on his deployment.

Moseley won't be able to share the holiday with his older son, but is glad they're at least in the same time zone, which will make it easier to talk. He'll also talk to his wife and younger son online this weekend as much as his mission demands will allow.

"My wife and I will open presents that we have sent to each other while we chat via the Internet," he said. "[The Internet] helps make the distance between us dissolve to a slight degree."

Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Armstrong, a battalion liaison officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, also said he's bolstered over the holidays by the support he receives from his family, and the nation, back home.
His wife, Kari, has given her husband steadfast support despite dealing with her own challenges this year. This will be her first Christmas without her mother, who died in February, and she's also helping to care for her father, who has Alzheimer's disease. While she wishes her husband -- "the rock of the family" -- was home, she said that won't change her level of support.
"I only do for my husband what he would do for me," she said.
In their nearly four years of marriage, they've only been together for one holiday season, Armstrong said, due to his three deployments and training. But he'll be home next month and they'll have a chance to catch up on their holidays together then, he said.
Meanwhile, he's grateful for the support that's helping to make the holidays a bit brighter in Afghanistan.
"The care packages really help my soldiers and me to keep our heads held high," he said. "This time of year, the Christmas cards from school kids really raise our spirits. The support is easily seen and has kept the soldiers upbeat."
Moseley said the flood of support has created a much-welcomed problem. "There are so many care packages, we are having trouble getting them out to the guys who are serving at the smaller operating posts.
"But it's a good problem to have and we will get the packages to them," he added.

Click photo for screen-resolution image Army Sgt. Kellie Mock poses for a picture Dec. 21, 2010, on Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan. Mock said it will be business as usual on Christmas although she does plan to watch a holiday movie and enjoy the bounty of care packages her family and supportive Americans have sent. Courtesy photo
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Click photo for screen-resolution image Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Moseley poses for a photo with some of his soldiers on Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan, December 2010. Moseley said the support of his family, and the nation, has bolstered morale for his troops over the holidays. Courtesy photo
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