Rich Galen

It is now just after midnight; and so it is Christmas in the Middle East, not all that far from where it all began.

The military's chief public affairs officer, Col. Bill Darley, just stopped by my desk to tell me, in that sad professional way military people have, that two soldiers have been killed by explosive devices this evening. That makes five this Christmas Eve day. We had heard that the terrorists would be using today to make a point.

They have.

They have proven themselves to be heartless cowards who have nothing but hatred in their souls.

A remarkable man, that Bill Darley. One of 130,000 remarkable men and women here on this Christmas Day, 2003.

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It is now the evening of Christmas Day. All over Iraq these men and women - old enough to have children, but young enough to be someone's child - all over Iraq they will have called home this day, or e-mailed, or instant messaged; renewing the connection between parent and child; or child and parent.

Each renewal will end with the same six words, six words I share with you this day and which come from my heart and from the hearts of every person who is here to do this vitally important job.

You can watch them, the men and women - even the battle-hardened Marines - as they use our phones, staring across the 10,000 miles between a desk in the Green Room in the Palace in Baghdad, and the phone on the wall of their mom's kitchen. The phone that has been there since before they were tall enough to reach it.

They stare across that 10,000 miles and they talk, and they listen.

And then so quietly.

And so gently.

And so tenderly.

These tough, young war-fighters; just before they have to hang up the phone and break that most cherished connection, they each say the same six words:

 

Merry Christmas;
I love you, too."

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.