With our black beanies, gloves and warming layers, huddled around the little camp stove, several days' growth on our faces, we look like nothing so much as a bunch of hobos. Well-armed hobos. (Even more dangerous than those stabbin' hobos.)

Camp Hit (our new FOB of residence) blows. No more 2-4 man rooms and gourmet chow hall. Our whole platoon is crammed into a 20'x50' space, and we're down to two hot chows a day, but at least we have power. No more flushing toilets or abundant hot showers. There are 20 portajohns and three shower trailers for the whole camp, around 500 Marines and Sailors. But, hell, I've got internet access and that's really enough for me.

We get mortared every few days here, but frankly I'm usually more annoyed at my Poker game being interrupted than at anything else. You can get used to anything I guess.

Someone was playing some Christmas tunes yesterday, and I wanted to go home. I hate that I'm missing another Christmas season. I remember Boot Camp, seeing the lights and the big tree out in San Diego, filling me with homesickness along with eagerness and anticipation. Christmas was weird that year because I had no buildup, I didn't get to experience the season at all. I graduated Boot Camp and not a week later it was suddenly Christmas.

This year will probably be worse. I barely noticed my birthday, or Thanksgiving. I think I'd almost prefer not to celebrate at all over here. To just ignore it all, consider this a different dimension where there is no holiday season. I doubt I'll be able to, though, what with the stockings hanging up, the Christmas cards rolling in. There's just enough Christmas to remind me that I'm missing Christmas.

Really, though, I suppose I'm closer, physically, to Christ's birthplace than I've ever been. After sunset but before moonrise, the stars are crisp, clear, and bright and I wonder where in the sky the star might have been that the magi followed to Bethlehem.

And maybe this is the closest I've ever been to the Christmas spirit as well, because what is every earnest soldier's ultimate goal, but Peace? Maybe not.

Don't send me any presents this year. If you haven't sent it by now, it probably won't get here in time, anyway. All I want for Christmas is peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Give some shit to people who need it and write me about it. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and send me pictures. Keep some lonely old people company, and tell me all about it.

These things, more than layers of clothing or hot chow or consumerist bullshit, are what I want to keep me warm this winter.

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